Powai Lake plagued by water Hyacinths.

Powai lake encroachments..jpg

A Lake full of water hyacinths blooming with flowers is a truly spectacular and unforgettable sight. But our Powai Lake has been plagued by water hyacinth plants for over two decades now. While its purple flowers can be deceitfully refreshing, its foliage can grow to cover large swaths of the waters in a dense green mat of leaves that choke the waters for the fish.

 It is extremely vigorous and reproduces at an alarming rate when conditions are favourable. In fact a single plant can end up producing so many offsets that it will cover the whole surface of a modest-sized lake in a single favourable growing season. The Hydraulic department engineers who are the official care takers of the lake have struggled every year to keep the invasive plant in check but in vain. Year after year they have tried to clear parts of the infiltrations but then the other half catches up when one portion is cleared says N. Vibhute in charge of the lake, “We are trying to renew the contractor who will clear the same. We made many attempts to clear the lake of the same in the past but it is a continuous job.” The water Hyacinths are a nomadic aquatic plant species which shrink the lake borders, slowly tightening in on the noose of the size in the peripheries of the lake. It is dreadful to even think that the lake could one day become a play ground, all dried up and wasted, lost of it’s rich bio-diversity. The fact is that parts of the lake were virtually cleared within a short period of time when the B.M.C. had hired a contractor and cleared the lake. As recently as 2008 and 2010, there was even optimism that the hyacinth plague would not return.This optimism has, however, been short-lived, because the last few years have seen a resurgence of massive proportions. This trigger could have been unusually heavy rains during the monsoons which feed the Powai lake with rich silt and nutrients being washed down from all the areas of surrounding Powai. This, in turn, produces nutrient-rich streams which run-off the lake.

The plant species can double its mass every five days, according to scientists.

Adds P. Salaskar also associated with the Powai lake over the years, “Because of its dense growth, it blocks sunlight from reaching the lake's native aquatic plants, which affects fish and other marine life. Methods that have been tried in the past like using locals and manpower to literally pluck and uproot the plants, as well as machinery that shreds from the water surface. These efforts worked for a while but were not seen as a permanent solution.”

When Avinash Sawant the local Powai corporator was contacted for the same he said, “Yes am working on getting the government and M.C.G.M. to raise tenders and expedite the cleaning of the same as early as possible.”

 The thick plant mats also exclude light from reaching the water below. Native aquatic plants therefore die and this affects fish and aquatic invertebrate populations. Further, the plants clog up storm water drains leading out of the lake and create standing water bodies which serve as breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitos. Finally, they also create zones in which there is no dissolved oxygen in the water and in which neither other plants nor fish can survive.

It's truly amazing, distressing and alarming just how devastating a delicate-looking and exceptionally beautiful  lake can become. All those who would like to join hands and help save the lake , Please do write in We can jointly surely save the lake.

(Elsie Gabriel is an award winning post graduate certified Green Teacher and Environmental Law expert. With twenty years of writing experience she has travelled to remote corners of the earth researching, photographing, documenting facts that bind the threads of anthropological wonder. Powai runs in her veins)