CHENNAI: There was water all over — on the streets and on the fields, inside homes and bringing the river to spate. As it rained without respite for a few days earlier this week, there was water everywhere - except the waterbody right in the centre of it all. Amid the chaos all around, the Chinnambedu lake, third biggest waterbody in the region, is completely dry.
Spread across 1,500 acres, this is the third biggest lake in Chennai-Tiruvallur region after Chembarambakkam and Poondi, right next to which the Arani river flowing filped to the brim. But it cannot take in any water as the canal that brings in water to the lake has been encroached by private residential and commercial establishments. If this were cleared of encroachments and overgrown vegetation, the water that now is draining at Pulicat backwaters could have been saved and used later for irrigating farmlands in 20 villages in the neighbourhood, said local public.
Located 40 km from Chennai the lake was originally spread over 1,548 acres., but shrunk substantially due to encroachments. Water from this lake caters to the irrigation needs of more than 6,000 acres cultivable land in Tiruvallur district. Two main incoming canals were created in Chinnambedu village during the late 1960s to connect the Arani river and the lake to ensure that the surplus water from the river flowed in to the lake during the rainy season.But settlements along this zone started to expand gradually, and according to the local people, there were no efforts to prevent them. As a result, their cultivation got affected every year, added fsrmers here.
The Chinnambedu lake which can hold up to two thousand million cubic feet of water is also the primary soure of water for four other lakes in Durainallur, Vadakanallur, Keelmeni and Peravalur, all of which spread across 400-500 acres.
Murugan, a farmer said, “Despite being a crucial water source, it was disheartening to see floods on one side of the road and a dry lake, which is a crucial water source for us, dry on the other side of the road.”
B Tulsi Narayanan, district secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha said, “Every time, few officials come and clear few bushes along the South-East corner of the lake, but never took any efforts to clear the major encroachments along the Northern and Western areas near Periyapalayam.”
Losing hope, a set of farmers last week decided to clear some of the overgrown vegetation on their own.
Thavamani, district secretary of Communist Party of India (CPI) said that though they removed few bushes with their bare hands, they had to hire a bulldozer to clear huge thorny bushes, trees along the incoming canal passage for which everyone contributed around Rs 500.
Though this trace of water was no way going to help their irrigation, the water could be used for their cattle, he added. Paddy, ground nut and flowers (rose, jasmine) are the major cultivations in this area and as a result of the floods and
encroachments, farming would be affected in nearby villages including Agaram, Pettai, Keelmeni, Peravalur and Andarkuppam next summer without sufficient water, added Tulsi Narayanan. Tiruvallur District Collector, K Veera Raghava Rao, was unavailable for comment.