An empty whisky bottle and a packet of cigarettes float on Hazaribagh Lake 2 on Sunday. Picture by Vishvendu Jaipuriar
A whisky bottle floating on Hazaribagh Lake 2 early on Sunday, World Environment Day, was perhaps symbolic of how citizens treat their area's biggest natural asset right in the middle of the town.
The beautified lake area has encouraged droves of people to sit on the stairs constructed around lake 2 and enjoy scenic beauty. But, many smoke and drink here, enjoy snacks with their booze, and then throw bottles, cigarette butts and empty packets of chips on the water body.
So far, police patrolling has ensured no incident of eve-teasing at the spot. However, the water body, which is the most accessible to Hazaribagh residents than its other three sisters - Hazaribagh Lake is a cluster of four - has been gleefully dirtied.
Boating facilities, snack vendors and a cafeteria and toy train near this water body bring hordes to lake 2. The only lake of the four to have stairs, hundreds, even thousands on weekends, including families, youths and single men, sit on them for hours.
But, as people like Rameshwar Narayan and Arun Kumar Prasad Verma say, people lack civic sense.
Rameshwar Narayan, an elderly man who had resigned from his teaching job to become a Maoist before the birth of Jharkhand and had then surrendered, is a known face in Hazaribagh now, especially for his lake clean-up activism.
Nearly every day, broom in hand, he cleans the long sweep of stairs surrounding lake 2.
"I'm not happy with the attitude of people. Every morning, I come here with my broom and clean the stairs but people always dirty them with polythene bags, plastic wrappers, liquor bottles and cigarette butts," he said.
Retired forester Arun Kumar Prasad Verma, who along with Narayan cleans the lake area every morning, showed the liquor bottles bobbing on the water's surface.
"It's disappointing to see how people are spoiling this beautiful water body and its surroundings," he said, "Today (Sunday), on World Environment Day, I want to tell everyone that the lake is our asset and we should protect it. We really lack civic sense," he rued.
He also pointed to streetlight bulbs around the lake falling prey to thieves.
In December 2015, as many as 259 electric poles, each 12 feet tall, were erected around the lake from MLA funds. Barely seven months later, six LED bulbs have been stolen and two damaged. People have also started damaging the benches around the lake and smashing tiles, all installed as part of the beautification drive that concluded in December 2015.
Hazaribagh Municipal Corporation, which is the custodian of the lake, helped by MLA funds, had spent Rs 1.28 crore on beautifying the areas around the lake.
Municipal corporation chairperson Anjali Kumari, on being contacted, said it was the responsibility of the people to protect the lake clusters and their surroundings. "It's painful to see how visitors dump booze bottles in the lake," she said. I'll speak to the administration and police for a strategy to combat this problem," she said.
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