A morning cycle ride in Whitefield always leads to the lap of nature. Today, my journey took me through countless emerald fields, on bumpy dirt roads, and past a serene temple, right to Kannamangala Kere (lake), a hidden gem in the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Kannamangala Lake is not particularly easy to access, nor is it easy to find on a map, but it is a picturesque birder’s hotspot, a quiet alternative to the frequented Hoskote Lake. The lake is the lifeline of three panchayats in Whitefield – Kannamangala, Seegehalli, and Doddabhanahalli – and is spread over 18 acres. While it may lack in species diversity (there are 30 species recorded on eBird), it is well-maintained and has an excellent constructed wetland/holding pond to prevent sewage from contaminating the main lake.
Local community members rely on the lake for a variety of domestic and agricultural needs. I spotted local women washing clothes at the lake, and a few men were filling buckets with water to carry back to their homes for domestic use. Birders also frequent the lake and I met a handful today squatting by the water’s edge, trying to photograph the cormorants preening on the island in the centre of the lake.
The lake, while heavily relied upon by locals, was poorly maintained for a while, with dumping, excessive sewage inflow, and burning of garbage taking place. A group of concerned citizens decided to restore the lake after the odour from the contaminated water became too much to bear.
Surveys of the lake showed that over 40% of the lake area was illegally encroached. When the panchayat brought this up with the farmers who were encroaching, to their surprise, the farmers showed no resistance and in fact agreed that restoring the lake would be beneficial to all stakeholders in the long run. A dedicated team defined the lake boundaries using maps from the local tehsil office. The team then spent 3 months dredging garbage out of the lake and relocating it with the help of the BBMP.
Today, the lake is a gorgeous walking spot, a birder’s paradise, and offers habitat to multiple species of waterbirds. Brahminy kites and black kites soar high on the air thermals, and cormorants skid across the water, trying to slow their momentum. Little grebes duck into the water at the first sign of commotion, pond herons flap energetically away as I pad towards the lakeshore, and local women chatter and giggle as they wash clothes. It is a self-sustaining ecosystem, one that was pulled back from the brink, and one that locals are now proud to call home.
As a wetland ecologist, the constructed wetland at the edge of the lake is an exciting discovery! An inflow pipe allows for domestic and agricultural sewage to enter the wetland, which acts as a holding pond. The pond slows down the water flow and the aquatic vegetation acts as a filtration device, capturing pollutants and particulate matter and letting it settle to the bottom of the wetland. Clean water then flows out of the outflow end of the wetland, into Kannamangala Lake.
The edge of the lake is comprised of rose gardens, chikoo plantations, and coconut trees, creating the ideal habitat for a variety of birds, including coppersmith barbets, rose-ringed and Alexandrine parakeets, and even a hornbill! The kites keep a vigilant watch over the intruders, circling and calling when the parakeets become too boisterous. It is a microcosm in itself.