Faridabad Badkal lake to be revived

Gurugram: 28 July, 2019 (Hindustan Times)

GURUGRAM: At the peripheries of Gurugram and Faridabad, nestled in the foothills of the Aravallis, lie Damdama, Surajkund and Badkal lakes, which served as important public spaces in the not-so-distant past. People of a certain age still recall fond memories of these lakes, which are tightly woven into the cultural identity of South Haryana and the National Capital Region.

Badkal emerged as a popular tourist spot in the late 1960s. Now, the lake bed has been dry for over a decade.

The Haryana government is now making an effort to revive these water bodies which — due to the influence of urbanisation, illegal groundwater extraction and mining in the Aravallis — have been worn to a shadow of their former selves, ecologically and culturally. With the state polls scheduled for October, officials say such projects will be cleared for approval and announced in coming months.

On July 13, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar revealed at an event pertaining to Jal Shakti Abhiyan, in Gurugram, that new lakes will be created in Kasan and Kukdaula and older ones in the region will be restored for tourism purposes.

The first of these projects to be implemented is the restoration of Badkal, which emerged as a popular tourist spot in the late 1960s. Now, the lake bed has been bonedry for over a decade.

In 2010, it was briefly filled up ahead of the Commonwealth Games, but a subsequent report by the Delhi Parks and Gardens Society (DPGS), in 2014, declared the lake to be completely dry. By some estimates, there hasn’t been any water there since 2006.

After considering multiple engineering solutions in the years since, the Haryana government, earlier this month, approved a ₹57-crore detailed project report (DPR) for the ‘Badkal Lake rejuvenation project’, to be undertaken as part of the Faridabad Smart City Mission.

Shortly after the lake was created in the 1960s (by building a bundh between two low-lying Aravalli hills, to trap run-off for irrigation in nearby agricultural fields), it became a vibrant tourist spot where one might have gone boating, taken a horse ride, feasted on a snack, or just sat by the lakefront on a pleasant day.

However, for the current generation of children, Badkal lake is little more than a piece of folklore.

The lake’s 42-odd hectares are now overrun with scrubby mesquite trees. Rampant mining in the adjoining Aravalli hills has altered the region’s hydrogeology, ravaged the catchment areas and damaged the underlying groundwater aquifer.

Local activists also report construction works in the hilly catchment areas and illegal groundwater extraction by residential settlements and bottling plants, have also led the lake to its ruin.

Environmentalists believe this revival is merely cosmetic and does not aim to holistically restore the area’s ecology.

“Using bentonite will impede groundwater recharge and create a water body, but it can’t be called a lake,” said Vijay Dhasamana, an ecologist who helmed the restoration of the Aravalli Biodiversity Park.