Bangalore techie Anand Malligavad is the Saviour of Lakes! Here’s his inspiring story

A rookie with no scientific training, Malligavad has already saved three lakes and plans to rejuvenate 45 more lakes by 2025

Anand Malligavad's Story

With a life dedicated to lakes, Anand Malligavad is a millennial to reckon with. Leaving a plush tech job after having spent 16 years with Sansera Engineering Ltd was no small task. But he had found his calling.

“Someone had to save our lakes. I decided to be that person,” shares 38-year-old Malligavad.

He has already saved three lakes and plans to rejuvenate 45 more lakes by 2025. He has revived 36-acre Lake Kyalasanahalli with funding of Rs 1 crore from Sansera, 9-acre Lake Vabasandra with grant of Rs 75 lakh from Hewlett-Packard, and 16-acres Lake Konasandra with funding of Rs 81 lakh from Hikal.

In a freewheeling conversation, we talk to the brilliant Malligavad about his new-found passion, the challenges he has faced and his awe-inspiring achievements.

Excerpts:

Your effort to rejuvenate dead lakes is commendable indeed. At the same time, we must also appreciate your decision to not spin this initiative into a business. What's the most compelling reason to do so?

My goal is to give life to lakes and save Mother Earth. That is my only focus. The minute it becomes a business, your focus gets divided. Then you have to think of P&L, salaries, rents, etc. This takes up most of your precious time that you would rather use doing what is actually important – saving lakes. I do not want to become a techno-commercial man and spend time running a business. I would rather use my time, energy and resources to do the task at hand.

In Karnataka, there are 36,000 lakes. In Bangalore alone, there are about 400 lakes. I started the lake rejuvenation work while I was working as a project lead at Sansera. I would work 9 hours at the job and then do the lake project afterwards. I was working 17-18 hours a day. I realised if I am able to achieve so much by working part-time, how much I could achieve if I put in all my efforts in it. That is when I decided to quit and follow my passion and we have saved three lakes so far. 

You have turned the dying 36-acre Lake Kyalasanahalli in Bengaluru into an oasis. How have you funded the project?

The project was a CSR project and my own company (Sansera) funded the efforts. It put in Rs 1 crore to save the lake. I was the head of CSR at Sansera and I convinced the company to put in monies to rejuvenate Lake Kyalasanahalli. We did not seek help from any experts. I led the project and everything was done in-house. We had hundreds of employees pitching in at every level – be it ideation, cleaning up or planting trees to build the beautiful oasis. 

What are the benefits the local communities deriving from these lakes?

Last 30 years, Lake Kyalasanahalli was a dry lake. Every year, in the rainy season, it would fill up and dry up in nine months. But in the last two years since we have rejuvenated the lake, we have crystal clear potable water of 16-18 feet. It is hugely beneficial to the people living in the area as it is useful in every aspect of their lives. Since the community mostly consists of farmers, we did not want the water from the lake to be used for irrigation. We have hence recharged 186 borewells that can be used for farming. 

We have also planted 38,000 saplings, which includes fruit trees as well, between this lake and Lake Vabasandra. We have been regularly watering these plants and they have grown 6-feet tall in two years. The local people come to walk, jog or just sit amid nature near the lakes.

What drives you to keep going?

When we started the lake revival work, I did not have very high expectations. I did not know whether the lake will fill up or whether it will become a source of potable water. There was not a single drop of water in the lake and people around were struggling. But then in the first week September, Bangalore saw record-breaking rainfall, and the entire lake filled up in one shot. Seeing this inspired me a lot and I vowed to keep going.

You must have faced challenges in your journey. What were these and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was to rejuvenate the lakes in as low a cost as possible and then to do it in a short time frame. Other stakeholders such as government or agencies spend Rs 10-15 crore to revive a lake and take months or even years to complete the project. I have Rs 1 crore for my first project and a limited time frame. We, hence, decided to do the project by ourselves without hiring contractors or architects. 

Researching and learning how to do it was a challenge. I was an employee at Sansera. I could not spend years on this project. I wanted to finish this in 60 days, and with sheer perseverance, we were able to do it in 45 days. 

Lastly, was getting buy-in from locals to believe in the initiative and volunteer help. Showing them how the lake will change their lives and how it will transform the area in 10 years was not easy. It took a lot of effort to educate the masses without government, and encourage them to pitch in.

If you were asked to help clean up the Ganga, what would be your plan of action?

First and foremost is education the local people and worshippers, and build a culture of ownership where they willingly take care of our scared river. Cleaning up will be futile if it is going to be ruined again. Secondly, I will use my experience to revive Ganga in a short span of time in a cost-effective manner. Thirdly, I would do it in a sustainable manner with natural resources such as water purifying plants and rocks. I would build an ecology that will sustain without human interference.

What is your message to India's youth?

Go beyond yourself and your family. Think about your city, your country and your planet. Help to bring in change in any way you can. Every small effort counts in saving Mother Earth.

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