Bengaluru’s 43 lost lakes and what stands on them today

Historic lakes in Bengaluru were drained to create the city’s infrastructure, leading to the current water crisis. The Ashok Nagar Football Stadium was built over the Shoolay Tank and Parangipalya Lake is under HSR Layout. Here’s what happened to others

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Bellanduru Lake, the largest and the most polluted of the remaining lakes in Bengaluru

Bellanduru Lake is the largest (and the most polluted) of the remaining lakes in Bengaluru. Toxic froth can be seen here. Pic: Flickr

Once called the 'the city of a thousand lakes', Bengaluru is today crumbling under the burden of urbanization and concretization. Kempe Gowda, a governor under the Vijayanagara Empire, is credited with developing Bangalore (now Bengaluru) in the 16th century. Since there was no perennial river in Bangalore, and the city was 3,000 feet above sea level, he constructed an elaborate network of tanks, irrigation wells, and canals. 

Kempe Gowda interlinked the water structures through a cascade system – rainwater was collected first in the lakes at the higher level, and the surplus flowed to the next lake through the interconnected water bodies. 

This innovation for water management was crucial for sustaining agricultural activities and supporting the growing population. As the lakes were interconnected with canals or drains to help transfer excess water to the next lake, there was neither flooding nor drought. 

During rains, the excess water was absorbed by the ground and flowed to the next water body. During summers, the lakes stored the rainwater and were recharged by underground aquifers.

How the lakes changed

Before 1896, when the first piped water supply came from Hesaraghatta, lakes and wells provided water to Bangalore’s residents. Kempe Gowda’s efforts in city planning, infrastructure development, and water management played a vital role in shaping the early development of Bangalore and establishing its reputation as a hub of commerce and culture in South India.

Also Read: Bengaluru engineer revives 11 dead lakes, targets to rejuvenate 45 water bodies by 2025

Today, most of the historic lakes have been breached to create infrastructure for the city bursting at its seams. The presence of the world’s top technology companies in Bangalore led to the skyrocketing of real estate prices. And to meet the growing demand for land for residences, offices, stadiums, playgrounds, transport infrastructure etc., the lakes were filled without realizing the consequences on the environment and the residents.

Lakes store water, recharge underground aquifers, and provide water to residents around the year. In the desert state of Rajasthan, lakes built by kings and royal family members centuries ago continue to provide water even today. But Bengaluru has not been this lucky and is facing a severe water crisis.

Even the remaining lakes have become dumping grounds. Encroachment and disposal of waste and toxic chemicals have turned lakes into disease carriers and a threat to the ecology. The Bellanduru Lake is the largest in Bengaluru and it is also the most polluted. Most of the city's sewage and industrial waste is released into it. The lake flows to Varthur Lake, polluting it as well.

Over the past few decades, hundreds of lakes in Bangalore have been converted into bus stations, layouts, golf clubs, colleges, government buildings, etc. One of the biggest among them was the Dharmambudhi Lake, a reservoir of water spread from Gandhinagar to the Subedar Chatram (SC) Road. It was in use till the late 1950s, with water being utilized for irrigation and to meet other requirements of the locals. 

Guess what stands today in the place of Dharmambudhi Lake – the famous Kempegowda Bus Terminal, named after the founder of Bangalore, and opened in 1980.

Similarly, the Ashok Nagar Football Stadium was built over the Shoolay Tank and Koramangala Lake lies buried under the foundation of the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI). Though some parts of the lake remain today, it is considered extinct because the majority of the lake is now land with buildings. 

Also Read: Arun Krishnamurthy: This man quit his job at Google to restore lakes across India

Jakraya Lake has become Krishna Flour Mills and the Hennur Lake is now the HBR Layout (Nagavara). Here is a list of erstwhile lakes in Bengalure and what stands in their place:

list of extinct lakes

Also Read: Kalpana Ramesh: The architect leading restoration of Telangana’s historic stepwells

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