It was a sunny day when Bengaluru-based Praveen Singh took out his new camera and drove his father’s car down to Bellandur lake. Sitting by the lake, he marveled at the light reflecting off the clear blue of the lake, the serene landscape empty of people, trying out his new camera in calm silence.
If you live in Bengaluru today, you’re probably wondering which parallel universe Praveen is in. Surely, this can’t be the same Bellandur lake that’s best known for throwing out wagonloads of toxic froth and even catching on fire.
But what Praveen’s photos show is indeed the very same lake, though it appears unrecognisable compared to its present state. The pictures he first clicked are from 1989, when he was only 18.
“I stumbled across these old photos a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out some old stuff. It seemed like they were from another era altogether,” Praveen tells TNM.
So Praveen once again took out his camera, and set off for Bellandur lake. He clicked photos from similar places. And when the two sets of pictures are juxtaposed, the difference is stark.
Praveen runs a venture which organises heritage walks as well as running and walking tours in the city. Born and brought up in Bengaluru, Praveen has seen first-hand just how his beloved lake, and the city, have changed for the worse over the years.
A runner himself, Praveen often passes by the area around Bellandur lake. He says that while the pollution of the lake began years ago, the changes of the last seven years have been much more rapid and catastrophic than anything that happened to the lake in the two decades before that.
“Back in 2010, the lake had already gotten polluted and things weren’t great. But the surrounding areas hadn’t changed. There was still green on the other side of the lake, as far as the eye could see. Now, all of that is gone. It’s just construction, debris and buildings,” rues Praveen.
“I remember the time I could go and spend by the lake, alone or with my friends. We spent lazy days there, even had picnics. All that is gone now, sadly,” Praveen says.
Praveen posted his before and after photos on a Facebook group recently, and it appears that many Bengalureans share Praveen’s feelings. Many of them blamed the degradation of the lake, its surrounding areas, and other parts of the city, on the IT boom and the rapid ‘development’ in the city.
While Praveen agrees with them, he doesn’t think that development is a bad thing. “There will always be nostalgia associated with a bygone era, but you have to move forward. So it’s not the IT boom, or the construction and development, but the way it has been done – without any regard for the natural heritage of the city – that I blame,” he says.
However, as a resident who has seen the city transition over decades, Praveen remains hopeful for the future. “There are initiatives to restore and revive the lakes now. People are more aware of what they stand to lose. But I don’t think it can be done if it’s a citizen’s movement alone. It needs to be a joint effort between authorities and the people. It is our city after all,” he insists.
(All photos by Praveen Singh, used here with permission.)