The Khadakwasla dam and its lake have been the main source of water for Pune. However, a build-up of silt and soil degradation along the shores have become an issue in recent years.
A conservation group, founded by ex-servicemen, and volunteers have been desilting the reservoir and also planting trees along its shore to reduce the effects of deforestation.
According to Lt Col Suresh Patil (retd), founder of Green Thumb, “We have so far desilted a 15 km stretch along the shoulders of the lake. The desilting was carried out by scraping over a 100-metre patch, going as deep as 3 to 5 metres. The soil would not stay in place and kept eroding due to lack of the right green cover and deforestation, .Hence, we have planted trees along this embankment.“
The organization, which has received participation of close to 15,000 volunteers and partners, has so far planted two lakh trees along Khadakwasla’s shores.
“The activity began five years ago. We have used species that are local and work best in holding the soil such as bamboo, singapuri cherry , mulberry , banyan, neem and others,“ he said .
The desilting has been a massive operation, with nearly 10 lakh truckloads of silt carried away so far, Patil claimed. “We have used the same nutrient-rich soil to plant the new trees, and also given it away to farmers who live and work around the catchment area which has benefitted them with an increase in yield,“ he said.
“When work began, silt had become islands measuring between 1 and 20 acres. With proper embankment and tree plantation, the effects of soil degradation and deforestation in the 250 sq km catchment area of the lake will be reversed,“ Patil said. He estimated that nearly 50% of the loose silt has been taken care of, at present.
The earlier water level of Khadakwasla has been high the year-round, as the population was much lower. “Now, the population has gone up in multiples and the water level has decreased. When the soil does not keep flowing into the lake, there is scope for more usable water to be held in the dam,“ he stated.
Working with the defence authorities, forest department, Ganesh mandals, police, and private organizations, Green Thumb is now looking to cover the entire 44km perimeter of the lake.
Source : TOI