it's not dead - it's a memory



this piece was originally commissioned by Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore, August 2013

Arkavathi River, which was once the dominant source of water for Bangalore, originates at Nandi Hills; that is also the birthplace of the rivers Pennar, Palar and Chitravathi. It once flew through Chickaballapura, Bangalore Rural, including Doddaballapura and Ramanagaram districts. The Arkavathi was a prominent source of drinking water for people of these districts but in the past few years, it has deteriorated immensely. Now, it is mostly dried up. However, citizens have come to accept its fate and are doing what they can to overcome their water problems from building bore wells to better drainage systems.


In Thimmasandra, one of the villages of Doddaballapura closer to Nandi Hills, Hunumappa, a landowner of majority of the village said he remembers Arkavathi being cleanest when he was still a child; it was their water source that they could continuously depend on. However in the past decade, because of issues such as sand mining, encroachments, industrial waste being loaded around the river, its degenerated to the point you can't really see it.  Ram Murthi, one of the villagers whom when asked if the Arkavathi exists replied, "Yes, but you can't see it.”


In Dodaballapura Town, Dairy Srinivasan said "private tanks come to sell drinking water to us. Since we can only use the water from the bore wells and municipal provided taps for cooking, cleaning and bathing, we are forced to pay 3 rupees for 20 liters for drinking water. Also, water only flows through the tap once a week, for an hour. Yet we have to pay the monthly tax of 108 rupees.” On the other hand, he also confidently said that people are working on creating a new sanitized drainage system, which he believes will proof, beneficial eventually. They are also building concrete walls so that when it rains, water can be channeled efficiently, and the water can be effectively used. So although there are day-to-day issues, solutions are in the process of overcoming them.


SVARAJ, a national voluntary organization has been working for the last 35 years on environmental protection & regeneration. Reviving the Arkavathi River has been one of their concerns for years. In 2005, SVARAJ and Nagadala, a group of 5 local men from Doddaballapura Town came to clean the Nagakere lake that emerges from the Arkavathi River. The lake had not filled up to its capacity since 1985; but after continuous handwork in the past few years to remove all the industrial waste from the lake and clearing up large amounts of garbage, 2 years ago the lake became completely immaculate and able to utilize. The rejuvenation began with 5 people, and towards the end they had at least 30 people working hard everyday. Today, even if the capacity of the water is not as much, the area is still clean and the little water that remains is untarnished, as the citizens have taken responsibility to keep it the way it is. Recently, the government wanted to construct a bus stop there, but the citizens protested and asked to leave it as it is.


Most importantly though, Nagadala, with the help of SVARAJ, has raised awareness about the importance of clean drinking water for rural communities, helped remove encroachments and helped the common people to protest against the industries that engage in sand mining. SVARAJ has also taught them about Rain Water Harvesting that serves very useful during the rainy season, as the water can be used for cooking, drinking, etc. SVARAJ’s efforts have made the common people realize the significance of clean drinking water, and keeping their lakes, tanks, and step-wells uncontaminated.


The Arkavathi River seems to live in commemoration to the citizens doing the best that they can to solve their water problems.

A passage through which the Arkavathi River used to once flow at the source in Nandi Hills.

The Hesaraghatta Lake, which is a manmade reservoir that was created in 1894 across the Arkavathi River to meet the water supply needs of Bangalore. However, the reservoir has last been filled up in 1994 and subsequently, it has deteriorated and gradually dried up to state it is in today.

The cleaned up Nagakere lake in Doddaballapura whose revival was initiated by SVARAJ and Nagadala in 2005 then continued in collaboration with rest of the citizens.

The region through which the Arkavathi River used to once flow at Thimmasandra, one of the villages of Doddaballapura closer to Nandi Hills.