Through the ages, urban wetlands have been the lifeline of most cities in India. They were preserved and looked after by the people as their main source of water supply for drinking and irrigation. These wetlands are found all over the country and are either natural or built by people. Over the years, they have gradually depleted, leading to a number of problems in urban areas such as flooding, water scarcity, and water logging.
Tanks were constructed in the catchment areas of cities that were not located near a river or a large lake. Rainwater or run-off would collect during the monsoons and be stored for the rest of the year in these tanks and lakes. The city would get its water supply from these.
In southern India, the towns were built around a temple, which always had a tank at the centre. Wells were located in the tank, which served as a link with the aquifers. There were innumerable tanks dug by the rulers, most of which have been destroyed. In fact, in some areas tank building by the ruler was considered a noble deed.
In Karnataka, the Hoysalas built tanks all over the state. Some of these still exist. Festivals were organized around tanks; cleaning and de-silting the tanks were a part of the rituals. But over the years, human activity steadily destroyed these wetlands. In Bangalore, the city bus terminus has been built on the Dharmambudhi tank. A part of the Sampangi tank has given way to the Kanteerva stadium and the remaining to a housing colony. Another lake was filled up to house the city market.
Once upon a time, these urban wetlands maintained a steady supply of water for the city, recharged the groundwater, cooled the city, and prevented flood as they were a natural drainage system. Over the years, these very tanks and wetlands have been neglected, encroached upon either to accommodate more houses or to dump waste. This has caused large-scale water crisis and monsoon flooding and water logging, leading to misery and disease. These wetlands that have been protected for centuries are now being ravaged and destroyed in the name of development.
People in the urban areas must learn to live in harmony with nature in their own habitat. The wetlands, the green belts, and the flora and fauna of these areas have to be preserved for urban areas to survive and remain healthy.
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