CHENNAI: If there is one wish for the residents of Ennore, it is to revive the Vannar Kulam (Dhobi’s pond). This pond now looks just like a small puddle of stagnated rainwater and has deteriorated due to the growth of weed plants, encroachment, and heavy silt formation.
Flanked by Ennore railway track on the left and the Burmese settlement on the right, Vannarkulam, located in Burma Nagar, has for decades been the main source of drinking water for thousands of families in Ennore, Ernavoor, and Thiruvottriyur.
However, over the last two decades, the pond has been left in neglect. The recharge wells on the pond have gone dry and now cows graze on the weed plants grown on the pond. Vehicles have been parked on the bunds and the surface too has become uneven.
Local residents, who returned from Burma in the 60s, said the pond used to be seven feet deep but now it is just one foot. ‘‘The pond was named after Vannars (Dhobis), who used it for laundry. However, in the 80s, they migrated from the locality,’’ said Indrani, a sixty-year-old resident of Burma Nagar.
The residents said the pond, which is about 30 acres in size, had several fish weighing up to even eight kilos. ‘‘Now that there are no fish, the pond has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes,’’ added Indrani.
Just like other areas, Ennore too suffered from one of the worst water crises the city faced this summer. However, even after heavy rains in the past few days, the little water-filled in this pond is unusable and contaminated. Additionally, the pond also is a flood barrier.
‘‘During the 2015 floods, Burma Nagar submerged into the water completely and we all moved to our relatives' house in far-away places. To prevent another disaster, this pond has to be desilted,’’ said Chitra P, another resident of Burma Nagar.
She said that children are prone to dengue due to the pond being in a bad condition. ‘‘Residents too started dumping garbage, turning the pond into a garbage dump yard,’’ added Chitra.
Recently, the civic body with the help of the NGO Environmentalist Foundation of India started to desilt the Thamarai Kulam in Ennore, a similar water body. However, the Vannar Kulam is marred by legal complications.
According to corporation officials, the caretaker of this pond is neither the Public Works Department nor the civic body but the Railways.
‘‘The area of the pond is classified as ‘vacant’ and is owned by the Railways. Their permission is required for us to even collect the garbage. However, for many decades, no measures were taken to revive this pond,’’ said the official.