Anand Malligavad's Inspiring Journey from Corporate Success to Restoring Bengaluru's Lakes

By auther pic. CSRBOX

February 1, 2024

Anand Malligavad's Inspiring Journey from Corporate Success to Restoring Bengaluru's Lakes

Malligavad Foundation

Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India, was once known as the City of Thousand Lakes. Abundant rainwater harvesting structures dotted the city, supporting rich aquatic life and meeting water needs. But recent decades' unchecked growth has meant destroying these vital urban wetlands for infrastructure projects. The town began feeling the pains of drying water bodies as glass and concrete replaced interconnected lakes.

Anand Malligavad grew up appreciating the role of lakes in an area blessed with ample rainfall. A small village in North Karnataka imparted a childhood education amidst nature before he moved to Bengaluru just as it entered a phase of breakneck urbanization. He obtained professional success in the corporate sector while witnessing the parallel death of lakes that earlier recharged borewells at 10-20 feet depth.

By 2015, Bengaluru stood on the brink of an imminent water crisis as articles warned it could go the Cape Town way. Of over 1,000 lakes, nearly half had been swallowed by the hungry city monster. The realization dawned that blind urbanization achieved by destroying interconnected wetlands had completely damaged entire ecosystems.

Determined to rectify the systemic destruction, Anand left behind his career to embark on a mission to revitalize Bengaluru's dying lakes. The plan involved restoring one lake at a time through community participation.

The Turning Point

In 2015, Anand came across an article predicting that Bengaluru was on track to becoming a "zero water city" like Cape Town, facing acute water scarcity in the future. This deeply troubled him. He started investigating the reasons behind the city's water troubles and found a startling statistic - out of over 1000 lakes, around 450 had been destroyed in the name of urbanization.

Anand realized that the destruction of Bengaluru's interconnected lake ecosystem had disturbed the delicate ecological balance that allowed rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge. The loss of lakes meant the loss of precious water resources for future generations.

Reviving the First Lake

In 2017, Anand undertook his first lake restoration project - reviving the 36-acre Kyalasanahalli Lake near Anekal. He received Rs 1 crore in CSR funding for this ambitious project from his then-employer, Sansera Engineering. Careful planning and the support of volunteers helped Anand complete the revival using only natural materials within 45 days.

Anand contacted the lake's neighboring communities to raise awareness and garner support for conservation efforts. His enthusiasm and dedication motivated many locals to volunteer their time and effort for this noble cause. Within a few weeks, the lake was transformed. It was desilted, bunds and walking paths were created, and over 5500 saplings were planted in just under two hours!

The enormous community support and quick success of this first project established Anand as a passionate lake conservationist. As his story spread, more people approached him for guidance on restoring other water bodies.

Becoming a Full-time Lake Conservationist

Encouraged by the impact of the Kyalasanahalli Lake revival, Anand took on a few other lake restoration projects alongside his job. However, he soon realized that his calling lay in this work full-time. Anand resigned from his corporate role to dedicate all his energies toward saving Bengaluru's lakes.

Over the past three years, he has successfully restored many lakes across Bengaluru, including Vabasandra Lake (9 acres), Konasandra Lake (16 acres), Gavi Lake (3 acres), Manae Lake (5 acres), Hadosiddapur Lake (35 acres), Nanjapura Lake (18 acres) and Chikka Nagamangala Lake (47 acres). To date, Anand has revived 12 lakes spanning over 211 acres. His conservation efforts have also supported replanting over one lakh saplings and recharging thousands of borewells.

Anand's Lake Restoration Process

Anand follows a systematic, eco-friendly approach to lake restoration:

  • Conducting detailed site surveys and making a revival plan based on the lake's unique topographical conditions.
  • Obtaining necessary permissions from municipal authorities before starting work.
  • Desilting the lake and strengthening its bunds using natural materials like clay and gravel.
  • Creating walking paths to allow community access.
  • Clearing drainage channels to improve water flow.
  • Replanting the banks with native species and replenishing fish populations.
  • His interventions are specifically tailored for each urban lake and are focused on natural regeneration using locally available resources. Anand's technical expertise and community-centric approach have been instrumental to the success of his conservation efforts.

    Overcoming Challenges

    However, the road to revival took work. Anand faced two significant hurdles in his journey - convincing corporate funders to invest in lake conservation and overcoming encroacher resistance. 

    Since most lakes had remained neglected for years, nearly one-third of their area was lost to illegal occupation. Anand invested immense efforts in sensitizing encroachers and explaining the critical need for revival. His perseverance paid off, as many people came on board to support the movement wholeheartedly.

    Impact Created

    Inspired by a looming water crisis, Anand embarked on a mission to revive Bengaluru's lakes. Over the past 5 years, he has restored over 200 acres of lakes and wetlands and spearheaded a movement to protect the city's water bodies.

    His lake restoration efforts have recharged thousands of borewells, benefited over 8,000 households, and breathed new life into fragile ecosystems. His model of community-driven, affordable, natural restoration has become a blueprint.

    Anand has directly trained over 5,000 volunteers and inspired countless others to take up lake conservation efforts. He provides scientific and technical guidance to other states looking to revive their water bodies.

    By restoring urban lakes, Anand is helping preserve Bengaluru's water security, prevent flooding, recharge groundwater levels, and regrow green spaces for local communities to enjoy.

    Several Lakes Renewed

    After this maiden effort, Anand initially took up lake rejuvenation projects along with his job before plunging full-time into conservation work. Over the next three years, he oversaw the complete restoration of 12 lakes spanning about 211 acres.

    Some of the critical lake restoration projects have taken place at Vabasandra Lake (9 acres), Konasandra Lake (16 acres), Gavi Lake (3 acres), Manae Lake (5 acres), Hadosiddapur Lake (35 acres), Nanjapura Lake (18 acres) and Chikka Nagamangala Lake (47 acres). At these sites, over one lakh native trees have been planted, including Miyawaki forests. Besides, locals confirm groundwater levels have risen across hundreds of acres, enabling improved borewell recharge.

    The standard operating process relies on extensive desilting to remove encroachments and solid waste. Strengthened bunds help replenish lake catchment areas, feeding river outlets and channels. Appropriate structural interventions are incorporated based on terrain specifics to optimize water retention. However, the fundamental focus remains on using ecologically sustainable materials and revival methods. For instance, original fish varieties have been repopulated in the restored habitats.

    The transformation of polluted, encroached water bodies choking with hyacinth weeds into vibrant sites teeming with aquatic life has helped build community awareness regarding water conservation. It has also bolstered employment opportunities for marginalized citizens depending indirectly on wetland ecosystems like landless laborers and small fisherfolk.

    The Road Ahead

    In line with his #Mission45Lakes goal, Anand aims to revive 45 Bengaluru lakes by 2030. He continues to conduct lake assessments, raise funds for upcoming projects, and is actively involved in on-ground conservation work. Anand finds significant meaning in helping communities reconnect with nature by transforming contaminated lakes into thriving ecosystems.

    Through his work, Anand Malligavad has established himself as an inspiring eco-warrior - dedicated to saving India's vanishing lakes before it's too late. His journey of giving up a lucrative corporate career to lead grassroots conservation efforts makes him an accurate model of ethical leadership. The power of one man's indomitable spirit is breathing life back into Bengaluru's threatened water commons.

    Also Read: Nurturing Dreams: Kolkata Couple's Vision for India's First Autism Center Township


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