For the past few weeks, joggers and regular morning walkers have been avoiding the Hauz Khas Lake. Reason: It stinks.
The air around is heavy with stench emanating from the water that is now dark with muck and algae.
Instead of aquatic birds, the sundry trees around the lake are dotted with crows, while passersby, mostly visitors to the adjacent greens, try to shield themselves from the outrage to their eyes and nostrils.
In all, it's not a very honourable fate for a 13th-century heritage water body that hosted 500 varieties of water birds not so long ago, making it an environmental asset in the heart of south Delhi.
For the 80,000-square meter lake, this should be a déjà vu.
A few years ago, the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), upon a mandate from the Delhi Development Authority, had brought the lake back to life after it fell to similar disuse.
The biological oxygen demand levels of the water had shot upwards of 20, rendering the water useless for all practical purposes.
After months of work, the INTACH had prepared a plan for the lake's resuscitation by installing aerators and channelling fresh water into it from Vasant Kunj.
The project, costing around Rs 20 lakh, had improved the water quality and as a result, the biodiversity of the micro ecosystem.
"We have had nothing to do with the lake since 2007 but we are aware that its condition has been falling to where it was before the restoration," said Manu Bhatnagar of INTACH, who spearheaded the project.
None of the 13 aerators (machines for oxygenating the water) is functional anymore. The solid waste accumulation in the water has also increased beyond redemption.
After the restoration, the DDA was given a list of dos and don'ts as a guideline for maintenance.
"How much of that was followed is evident from the condition of the lake," said Vinod Jain, head of NGO Tapas and the petitioner in the case on Delhi's surface water bodies, wherein the Delhi high court has directed the state agencies to restore several lakes, including the one in Hauz Khas.
"For better maintenance, now a committee of local residents and DDA officials must be made to monitor the quality of the lake. It is an asset for the city," Bhatnagar said.
"It is now easy to mistake the lake for some pit that collects sewage water, which is pretty much what it is," Jain said.
Sitting in its own miasma of muck, the lake now awaits a third shot at life.