This is the story of a neglected Kalyani or temple tank in the town of Mulbagal, Karnataka, where Arghyam is facilitating an Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) initiative. The people of Mulbagal have adopted the Kalyani that had been abandoned and neglected for the past 25 years and transformed it in a matter of days.
The Kalyani before the clean-up
The President, Chief Officer, Project Support Unit (PSU) and ‘Nirmala Balaga’ formed a special working group to clean up the Kalyani through ‘shramadan’ (voluntary labour). The Mulbagal Town Municipal Council (TMC) deployed a tractor, a JCB, 40 pourakarmics with required equipment, 6 Nirmala Balaga staff members and key officers of the TMC and PSU to complete the task.
Progress of the clean-up
De-watering the stagnant Kalyani
Five pumpsets ranging from 3 to 5 HP capacity were deployed by the Mulbagal TMC to remove the stagnant water in the Kalyani. The pumps ran for 90 hours emptying the tank, even revealing a few snakes that had made it their home.
Stagnant water being pumped out from the Kalyani
The Kalyani was also de-weeded, and after all the water had been pumped out an amazing discovery was unearthed - a small structure emerged from the centre of the tank. This structure was identified as a beautiful mantapam, which is believed to be double storied.
The Mantapam emerges
The community participates relentlessly in the clean-up
Extraordinary cooperation from the community was witnessed during this clean up exercise. All the encroachments on the side of the Kalyani that had been there for several decades, voluntarily vacated the premises. The Councillor and the Chief Officer are leading from the front on the ground.
A happy beginning
For over 25 years, this Kalyani in Mulbagal was used as a garbage dump. It became a breeding ground for mosquitos, increasing the risk of disease, not to mention that it was an eyesore in the middle of the town. It was a definite source of pollution for the groundwater in the area, and became a cosy home for snakes. Not surprisingly, it was also being used for open defecation. There has been a failure on the part of governance, the community and the concerned temple authorities for allowing the Kalyani to reach this stage of neglect.
This Kalyani can hold approximately 75 lakh litres of water, and there are 26 more similar ones in Mulbagal alone. Today it could cost as much as Rs. 4 crores to construct a Kalyani of this size. The tank has started its journey towards its rejuvenation but there is still a long way to go. There is almost another 12 to 15 feet depth of silt, which can be to an extent of another 1000 tons, which is being desilted. The natural recharge of groundwater in the tank is posing some challenge to its cleaning, but with the enthusiasm of all the stakeholders involved so far, this Kalyani is sure to reach its rejuvenated state. However, there are bigger challenges like the operation and maintenance of this Kalyani once it is restored.
Natural grounwater recharge as the Kalyani is cleaned up
The town of Mulbagal has about 26 other Kalyanis and five big lakes. All these water bodies can become a lifeline for the town if the same participation from all the stakeholders is channelled towards restoring and maintaining them.