Chennai's water bodies recharged but challenges remain

In many big lakes, contamination of sewage and encroachment by illegal buildings still continue to thrive.
(Periya Eri in Pallavaram abrim with water after recent heavy rains. | Photo- Express)
(Periya Eri in Pallavaram abrim with water after recent heavy rains. | Photo- Express)

CHENNAI: Many water bodies and temple tanks are brimming in Chennai due to the recent rains. But the long standing problems like desilting, removing encroachments and plugging sewage still remain to be bigger challenges.

Though Chennai faced a 12 percent rainfall deficit this monsoon, recording only 58.44 cm rainfall against the normal 66.44 cm, this was enough to leave many of the water bodies full.

Some of the major lakes that are full are the ones in Porur, Retteri, Chitlapakkam, Madambakkam, Pallavaram, Keelkattai, Thiruneermalai, Medavakkam, and Avadi, among others.

Sunil Jayaraman of Chitlapakkam Rising, a social-welfare group, said that the lakes have to be desilted at least by 2020 for real benefits.

‘‘Though Chitlapakkam lake is 50 percent full sewage still drains into it. The issue is the same with Sembakkam and Selaiyur lakes,’’ he said, adding that, even though the lakes are full, not even one drop of rain water is saved.

The story is the same with the overflowing Pallavaram and Thiruneermalai lakes which is marred by contamination of sewage and encroachments.

Pallavaram resident and civic activist David Manohar said that the brimming Pallavaram lake is home to 99 percent of sewage from the locality. ‘‘The bunds have not been raised nor the sewage has been cleared. Last year itself the municipality had to do this during the summer,’’ he said.

Manohar added that the Keezhkattalai and Narayanapuram lakes are relatively less polluted but since a sewage treatment plant is placed near the Keelkattalai lake, during heavy rains, the municipality without treating waste water, lets it into the lake.

In the Thiruneermalai lake, recently, thousands of fish died allegedly due to contamination. Restoration of this lake too has been tardy and sewage continues to be let in. However, on the brighter side, the civic body and NGOs have been determined in restoring smaller lakes in the city.

Arun Krishnamurthy, Founder of Environmentalist Foundation of India, a waterbody restoration group, said that 54 water bodies have been restored by them in the city while 37 of them were inside the corporation limits.

Some of the lakes restored by EFI are the ones in Ambattur, Ennore, Velachery, ECR and OMR. ‘‘Construction debris, non-degradable waste, sewage inlet and uneven bunds were some of the problems faced during restoration,’’ said Arun.

The corporation too has restored about 135 small lakes out of the proposed 210 while it has recharged hundred temple tanks by connecting them with rain water harvesting structures. Corporation officials said that 37,000 metric tonnes have been removed from canals while restoration of 74 lakes are in progress.

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