CHENNAI: As efforts are on to rejuvenate the Porur Lake, activists are demanding that the lake should be restored to its original spread of 800 acres, including the portion that was alloted to an educational and charitable Trust in the 1980s.
Addressing a press conference organised by the May Seventeen Movement here on Friday, A Veerappan, former special chief engineer of Tamil Nadu Public Works Department, told reporters that a portion of the lake was handed over to the Trust in 1986 by the Department, despite stiff opposition from Ramachandran, the then chief engineer. “This portion was given to a private organisation despite public using it for irrigation purposes,” he recalled. The lake that once measured a majestic 800 acres has now been reduced to less than half. Only about 330 acres remain on revenue records now,” he added, charging that the remaining 470 acres had been encroached.
The lake, he pointed out, played an important role in recharging the groundwater table, and should thus be protected.
The former chief engineer’s statement came in the wake of efforts being carried out by the State Government to rejuvenate the remaining part of the lake, which has a water spread area of 250 acres. It is one of the three water bodies that was chosen to create additional storage capacity and meet the city’s drinking water needs.
Veerappan said that there was a need to protect, restore or rejuvenate 39,202 tanks in the State, most of which, he alleged, had already been encroached upon by government and local bodies, politicians and vested interests.
Most waterbodies had been converted to schools, colleges, residential complexes and event court complexes. Even the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court was built on Ulaganeri tank, he said. There is a need for more funds to protect and rejuvenate the existing tanks, as being done in neighbouring Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, he added. “Tamil Nadu, too, should follow the lead and allocate more funds for this purpose,” he said. Veerappan, also the State secretary of Tamil Nadu Public Works Department Senior Engineers Association, said he had submitted a proposal to the State Government for a massive project to improve waterbodies within the next 10 years, at a total outlay of Rs 1 lakh crore.