It is so big that nearly 4,000 soccer fields would fit into it. Or 25,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. And still have some space left.
India’s largest manmade water body, the Upper Lake in Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal and spread across 32 sq km now has its very own security force modeled on the Coast Guard, officials of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation said.
With speedboats equipped with wireless sets, loud speakers and floodlights, the force will keep a watch on people throwing garbage in the lake, involved in illegal fishing, encroaching on government land on the banks and most importantly attempting to commit suicide.
“Four speed boats will man the waters of the Upper Lake, with two-member teams on each boat. To begin with, two boats have already started and two more will be bought soon…They will now guard the lake like coastguards do,” said BMC commissioner Tejaswi Naik.
The boat personnel will be assisted by more guards patrolling the lake fringe on five motorbikes.
BMC lake conservation cell in-charge Santosh Gupta said that the civic body would now be “able to take care of lot of issues, ranging from mid-water emergencies like boat capsizing or drowning incidents and violation of various environmental and civic rules.”
According to police, two persons attempt suicide in the lake on an average every month while around six succeed in their attempt every year.
BMC has divers on duty throughout the day by the main ‘suicide spots’ to foil suicide attempts.
Known as the city of lakes, Bhopal has two main water bodies – the Upper Lake and Lower Lake, which is much smaller.
The Upper Lake was created by Raja Bhoj — by constructing an earthen dam across the Kolans river — during his tenure as a king of Malwa (1005-1055) to secure the eastern frontiers of his kingdom.
A huge statue of Raja Bhoj stands in the middle of the lake, one of the major tourist attractions in the city. There are also provisions for boating in the lake.
In 2002, the two lakes were declared a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance.
A spurt in Bhopal’s population from about 70,000 in 1951 to 22 lakh at present, coupled with fast urban development around Upper Lake has subjected the water body to environmental degradation over the years, prompting authorities to take various protective measures.