Sanjay Lake on last legs?

Environmentalists and morning walkers of Mayur Vihar claim that Sanjay Lake in East Delhi is shrinking by the day. The ongoing concretisation of lake's bed for developing a park has increased the concern of environmentalists and residents.

The residents of adjoining flats in Mayur Vihar Phase-II claim that they have written to the authorities concerned to conserve the ecology of the lake, but have received only promises until now.

'The government agencies must stop concretising water bodies as it confines their natural boundaries. When that is coupled with human activities, it could cause drying up of water bodies,' said Vinod Kumar Jain, founder of TAPAS, an NGO working to conserve water bodies in the city.

 'The government agencies should join hands to conserve water bodies and ecology in the city, which are in poor condition,' added Jain. He had filed a public interest litigation in Delhi High Court nine years ago seeking court's intervention in conserving water bodies in Delhi. On high court's order, the government had constituted a team to identify water bodies and plan their conservation. But according to Jain the situation at Sanjay Lake was a perfect example of the apathy shown by the government.

'The government had announced that it would develop the lake as a tourist destination before Commonwealth Games, but the project is gathering dust,' said N N Mishra, coordinator of URJA, an association of RWAs in Delhi.

Spread along the length of the Sanjay Jheel park, the water body originally constituted 17.20 ha of the total 69 ha. It is surrounded by Kalyanpuri and Trilokpuri on one side and Mayur Vihar Phase-II on the other. In the original plan, the area of park, parking, path, water body, children play area, grassy lawn and woodland had been clearly earmarked. DDA had even started plying boats in the lake for local entertainment, but it had attracted only a few. A deer park, windmill and old people corner were also proposed in the lake complex, but were never constructed. A recreation centre was constructed by the DDA in early '90s, but it was abandoned.  

The park that is being constructed near Swinging Bride now is situated almost in the middle of the lake, occupying almost six acres of lakebed. Stone sheets are also being laid down, confining the boundary of the lake. Further, a small overbridge is being constructed to provide access to visitors in the main park. Almost half the lake on the other side of Swinging Bride is filled with water hyacinth. Sewage from unauthorised colonies, squatters, and solid waste from Kalyanpuri and Trilokpuri areas are also being let into the lake.

'The sewage stink up the place. You cannot stand here for long. To make matters worse, washermen wash their cloths in the main water body, which is fed with water pumps,' said Ram Sahay, a resident of Pocket C in Mayor Vihar Phase -II.

In 1981-82, after the development of Mayur Vihar Phase-II, DDA developed the lowland as Sanjay Jheel, comprising a lake and a park. A circle of the lake and contiguous park of seven kilometres surrounded Mayur Vihar Phase-II. The water body was also used to harvest rainwater. It was after the development of Pocket E, D and B (SFS) in 1989-90, the colony became fully inhabited. The park and the lake are the most favoured places for morning walk and also to get some fresh air, point out the residents.

Though according to DDA, the lake still attracts migratory birds, daily walkers and residents claim that is history now. 'I come here regularly, but had not seen any migratory bird for the last three years. Even indigenous birds are disappearing from the lake. We only see ducks here,' said Shyam Morada, Joint Secretary of Pocket E RWA. 'There is urgent need to conserve the lake ot it will gradually become a park,' added Morada.

Another concern of the residents is the prevalent threat of theft due to broken boundaries of the lake area. 'The thieves generally break the fence and come inside. We have complained several times to the authorities concerned to construct a boundary wall, but everything is limited to files only,' said Ramesh Chandra, a resident in pocket D of Mayur Vihar.

The residents and morning walkers are forced to face squatters defecating in the open around the lake. The residents also demand regular desilting and clearing up of water hyacinths, besides putting a ban in action for sewage and solid waste disposal in the lake.
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