Life and Water at Rachenahalli Lake
Rachenahalli is one of the few living lakes of Bangalore, in the north of the city. It is connected to water bodies
upstream and downstream, particularly Jakkur Lake on the north‐east. Both these lakes have been rejuvenated at
substantial costs by the Bangalore Development Authority over the last decade. A sewage treatment plant (STP)
with a capacity to treat 10 million litres a day was set up north of Jakkur Lake by the Bangalore Water Supply and
Sewerage Board (BWSSB). Water from the STP flows into Rachenahalli when Jakkur Lake overflows during
Rachenahalli is an example of a thriving social ecological system – while providing natural resources to people
living around it, acting as a sink for fisher folk cleaning fish or women doing Sunday laundry, receiving treated
sludge from new residences around the lake, as well as from an upstream STP, the lake continues to live and
The author and photographer, Sumetee Pahwa, has been living in the vicinity of the lake for the last 3 years, since
her return to India from Cape Town. The lake and its living waters inspire and intrigue Sumetee. More recently, she
has taken an active interest in the many ways that people derive resources from the water body and its surrounds.
Molded fishing boats straddle a bountiful lake as new residential developments herald high‐rise living
into Bangalore’s peri‐urban areas. Treated wastewater from most of these high rises will end up in the
Cleansing the sheep 1
Manjunath, a shepherd from Amruttahalli, throws one of his sheep into the lake before giving it a
thorough soap and scrub.
Cleansing the sheep 2
Manna pulls along the next sheep picked for its sunny Sunday morning fling, dunk and scrub.
Clumps of bulrushes rise above the water; clumps of concrete define the boundaries of Karle SEZ
(Special Economic Zone) in the distance. The SEZ abuts the Outer Ring Road, connecting Hebbal to KR
Guardians of the Lake
Children of migrant construction workers from Bihar learn Hindi, English and Kannada in a local school.
While their parents work on a new commercial building overlooking the lake, the children play in fresh
stealing a ride
Rupa and Bhagya in the Royal Enclave property owner welfare association (REPOWA) park. Normally this
park is off limits for domestic helpers and their children but road upgrades around the lake have
unlocked many doors!
What’s under the pavement?
The shop owner throws water beneath the chicken coop, which washes off bird excreta into the drain
below. The drain empties into Rachenahalli Lake.
7 drums for the 7 days after which water comes in the municipal pipe servicing this residence. Mom, her
three sons and their friends pose alongside the chilies drying atop the drums.
A wealthier resident draws water from a well on her property. The well water is charged by the lake.
Fish market 1 & 2
The man weighing the fish runs a thriving business next to the lake, with minimal financial investment.
Extra help for cleaning and cutting the fish is needed on weekends when families buy in bulk for an extra
Scales off, innards out
Two fishermen prepare their catch for sale at local eateries. They throw the innards of the fish back into
the lake, as food for other organisms.
Cleaning the tools
Bags, knives, slippers, feet and hands are all immersed in the lake waters.
A solar panel charges a night lamp and a cell phone while the fisher folk’s clothes dry in the strong sun.
Across the lake is the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Rural Energy and Development (MGIRED), with solar
panels on its roof and wind generators in the compound.
bringing the bounty home
Most days, the fish is caught early mornings and evenings. But today the catch and sale warranted an
extra mid‐day foray into the waters. The stone embankment in the foreground is part of the 19 crore
rupee investment made by BDA into “lake rejuvenation”.
Reflections and perturbations
2 Pelicans leave their trail behind on a very still surface that reflects new and old residential complexes.
Godrej apartments on the far right are almost 3 kms away, on the New Airport Road.
Cows can graze along the idyllic lake shores since the paved areas have soft boundaries with adjoining
roads, private properties and public parks.
Three fishing boats rest for the night carrying rolled up fishing nets, thermakol seats for the fisherman
and small oars. The waters get rough during extreme rain events, but for most part of the year, this spot,
a few steps down from the fish market, is fairly protected.