Anand Malligavad is a man of action- he is Bengaluru’s very own lake conservationist who is on his way to winning back the city its original title of ‘City of Lakes’. Since 2016, Anand Malligavad has been on the field, transforming dead water bodies into lakes sprawling with water, flora and fauna to become community hotspots.
How it Began
In 2015, Anand came across a newspaper article which stated that by 2025, Bengaluru would become the second zero-water city following Cape Town. While most people wouldn’t give processing this information a second thought, it became a gnawing thought that consumed Malligavad’s life- and became his mission.
He came to the realisation that if Bengaluru became a zero-water city, 21 cities would follow the trend by 2030. “If we don’t work on it, it’s going to be very dangerous for the nation,” he reflected.
Being from a mechanical engineering background, Anand didn’t have a basic knowledge on lake ecology to grow from; but he was consumed by a fiery passion. He returned back to the books, studying what made cities zero-water and what the problem was. What had changed to get it to the point of becoming a city without water within a timeline of a few years?
After extensive research, he learned that Bengaluru was dependent on its lakes for water. The city had over a 1000 lakes which had all been pushed to the brink of destruction. It was the disturbance in this ecosystem which resulted in all of this. The city’s lakes were on a timebomb and the people needed to play their part to prevent this from happening by 2025.
Anand Malligavad says, “I finally started thinking that I should do something. Being a common man, if I create awareness, nobody listens to me. It reached very few people. I thought instead of creating awareness, why don’t I create a model of lakes; why don’t we rejuvenate the lakes?”
Learning to Rejuvenate Lakes
That set him onto the path of learning how to rejuvenate lakes- diving deep into the scientific and technical aspects of lake rejuvenation, taking the time out to physically visit around 180 lakes. 20-30 of these lakes had been already rejuvenated by the government or civic bodies. This gave Anand a deeper understanding about topographies, soil condition and catchments- topics he barely understood until then. He attempted to understand why and how the lakes got destroyed in order to figure out how to revive them. He didn’t see the appeal of rejuvenated lakes beautified with modern things- the water quality was still not acceptable. He got inspired by those lakes with a natural habitat which retained a rural charm- with the best-quality water and home to birds and animals.
His aim is to rejuvenate the lakes from an ecological perspective- it’s not about beautification. His lakes are a lot better than lakes beautified with interlocking tiles just made to look beautiful- his lakes are healthier and sustainable, good enough for children to swim in.
Once he got a complete understanding on how lake rejuvenations worked, he began dissecting how governments went about the process- he realised that the time taken (6 to 12 months) and funds spent were monumental. Anand recognised his limitations, working as a full-time employee, to redirect his efforts to revive lakes.
One Drop causes a Ripple – The First Lake Rejuvenation
The lakes rejuvenated by the governments are beautiful- but you cannot touch the water.
Anand began brainstorming ways to do the same work- within a smaller timeframe and budget. In 2017, with the help of his own company Sunshine Engineering Ltd, he took up the responsibility of a 36-acre lake project for Kyalasanhalli Lake. He completed the rejuvenation project in a sustainable manner, within a proposed timeline of 45 days, under a budget of 1 crore. The lake has stood the test of time- over the past 6 years, the lake volume has never dipped below 50%- a definitive parameter of success.
Since then, one by one, he was able to rejuvenate a couple of lakes, alongside his full-time job. With those first few lake rejuvenation projects, he could note several tangible and intangible benefits for the society- borewells were recharged, economies revived, birds and fishes started coming in. All of this just fuelled his passion further. He felt the need to take up this work on a full-time basis. He took the step of resigning his well-paid engineering job in February 2019 to become a full-time lake liberator.
He has set a goal of rejuvenating 45 lakes by 2025, before Bengaluru is declared a zero-water city. His foresight has allowed him to stick to this proposed goal- Anand Malligavad is even confident that he will complete 45 lakes by 2023, two years before schedule!
In 2017, Anand Malligavad completed his first lake rejuvenation project. In the following year, in 2018, he worked on another lake. In 2019, he upgraded it to two rejuvenated lakes which became four lakes annually in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, he intends on completing a total of eight lake rejuvenation projects. This is only possible by dedicating 24/7 of his life in pursuit of this project.
Somewhere between 2017 and now, Anand had a thought: Is just rejuvenation of the lakes enough? No! 36,800 lakes are available in Karnataka itself with 850 of those within the Bengaluru vicinity. There was a dire need for more people.
Becoming a Beacon of Hope & an Inspiration
To get more people interested in his mission, Anand Malligavad began getting the word out about lake rejuvenation, his journey and personal experiences.
He put in efforts to inspire people to lend a hand, engage communities, involve corporations and convince governments to make a difference.
Anand Malligavad began experimenting with his own lakes. He proudly states, “If you see my 18 lakes, each one has a different design, a different concept. It’s all a completely different phenomena.” He went on to create model lakes to educate those who don’t have the scientific and technical know-how in the field.
Educating people led him to schools and colleges, even conducting webinars. On one hand, this led to inspiring large volumes of the population and on the other hand, it increased the attention that Anand’s lake rejuvenation project received from corporates and the government.
Most of his lakes are rejuvenated with CSR funding support. Through the process, Anand makes it a priority to engage the community. “I build a rapport with them. I became a good friend of the villagers. In every village, I find a few like-minded people, build a rapport with them.” This process takes 2 to 3 months after which he reaches out to the Gram Panchayat for permissions and corporates for funding.
Major Challenges to Lake Rejuvenation
In the initial half of his journey, Anand realised that there were so many aspects that he had overlooked. Encroachments were a huge dilemma and these encroachers included politicians and wealthy individuals affecting the poorest of people. Investigating these opened up Pandora’s box to death threats and emotional discussions that Anand was unprepared for.
He recalls a time when he was in the middle of a lake rejuvenation project and he fell short on the budget- all because he overlooked the 18% GST.
Another challenge that Anand Malligavad highlights is that lakes cannot be rejuvenated every six months- the project should assure permanent results. This is only possible using a sustainable approach- no foreign materials, no steels, no concretes and without stone pitching. He went back to the basics to achieve ecological lake restoration. “This made me become a natural habitat creator.”
“It was not just by education or passion or something. The money I did not have. But, I wanted to complete the full lake. So many new ideas came, all thanks to villagers. They helped me a lot- giving the best ideas without money,” he says.
The next thing was getting the confidence of people. He often received comments like- Who is this guy? What can he do in 95 lakhs? How much will he do? Will water come or not? Is it a proper system?
To wrap up, he says “The reason [I succeeded] is not because of my knowledge, my integrity or my dream. I did not have resources and money. But I had a dream of doing something better. That is why this has come up.” Anand’s passion has taken him all across Bengaluru and Karnataka- and now he has crossed the borders to even rejuvenate lakes in Ayodhya.
With every rejuvenated lake, Anand Malligavad has earned his title as Bengaluru’s very own Lake Liberator.