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| Last Updated:: 27/07/2016

Three hidden lakes revealed, but they may soon vanish






Till the early eighties, three natural spring-fed freshwater lakes in Madh Island, surrounded by sea water, provided drinking water and fish to villagers even during summer. But today, Harba Devi, Vanala and Erangal, located at an altitude, are no-go areas, recalls Santosh Koli, a fisherman and social worker in Madh village. Three decades of no de-silting work and cleaning has led to the current state of affairs. The lakes were unknown to the wider city till a team of surveyors recently discovered them. One lake couldn't be approached as it is completely surrounded by slums.



Today, sewage and garbage flows into the lakes from abutting slums. Their rare ecosystems are threatened, if not already destroyed. The lakes, which dry up completely in summer, may vanish soon if they continue to be neglected.



At a time declining quality and quantity of groundwater and severe flood threats have led to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to keep lakes and ponds top on his agenda (recall the Chitale Committee flood warning report, mentioning lakes as crucial to absorbing water overflow), lakes fighting for survival is a sorry state of affairs. Villagers said it would not be surprising if one day the lakes become playgrounds or parks and eventually become pieces of real estate for land sharks to gobble up.



An environment report on the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) prepared by TERI pointed out that the three lakes are completely unattended, as a result of which silt has blocked their natural springs. One of the three lakes is a larger reservoir (Vanala), and is not easily accessible due to surrounding slums. Erangal lake too has poor accessibility due to private properties around it. Nitesh Mhatre, a resident of neighbouring Erangal village said their age-old water body is on the verge of extinction as sewage and muck from the entire village flows into it. The lake is not accessible easily due to private lands that have layers of fencing. Harba Devi lake, full of algae and plants, needs a major clean-up.



Since the late seventies, when the BMC's water supply lines reached Madh and Erangal villages, the lakes have become virtually rain-fed. Their original biodiversity has almost disappeared. Madh is located around 11 km from Malad by road and is closer to Versova by ferry boat.



"Had these water bodies been cleaned regularly, they could have easily provided water to 25,000 families in Madh and Erangal, saving a huge water stock for the BMC to supply elsewhere in the city," said Koli.



Social worker Vikram Kapoor said local citizens had a meeting with the BMC and state government officials along with legislator Aslam Sheikh to decide on a programme to clean and beautify the lakes, but not a single decision has been taken to rejuvenate them.



Pankaj Joshi, Urban planner and executive director of Urban Design Research Institute said several lakes in Mumbai  have vanished and become playgrounds and parks following neglect for decades.







Source: The Times of India