CHENNAI: ‘Vannarkulam’ (dhobi’s pond), is dying a slow death. It is now just a shadow of its old self, being infested by weed and silt. Encroachment has also taken away much of its sheen. Still all is not lost and residents of Ennore are hoping against hope that somehow this age-old pond can be revived.
Dotted by railway tracks on the left and Burmese settlement on the right, Vannarkulam, had been the main source of drinking water for thousands of families in Ennore, Ernavoor and Thiruvottriyur. However, over the past two decades, the pond has been left neglected with recharge wells going dry. Now, one is often greeted by cows grazing on weeds. And, the uneven surface of the bund is being used as a parking lot.
Locals, who returned from Burma in the 60s, said the pond used to be seven feet deep, but now is just one foot. “The pond was named after Vannars, who used it for washing clothes. However, in the 80s they migrated,’’ said 60-year-old Indrani from Burma Nagar.
The waterbody, which covers an area of 30 acres, was a haven for marine life and some fish weighed a whopping eight kilos in the good old days. Now there are no fish and the pond has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, added Indrani.
Ennore, too, suffered from one of the worst water crisis this summer. After the recent rains, the pond has little water, but that has been rendered unusable due to contamination.“During the 2015 floods, Burma Nagar was submerged completely. To prevent another disaster, this pond has to be desilted,’’ said Chitra P of Burma Nagar, adding that the pond also acted as a flood barrier.
Recently, the civic body, with the help of the NGO, Environmentalist Foundation of India, started desilting the Thamarai Kulam in Ennore. However, the Vannarkulam hasn’t had any luck. According to Corporation officials, the caretaker of the pond is neither the Public Works Department nor the civic body, but the Railways.
“The pond area is classified as ‘vacant’ and is owned by the Railways. Their permission is required to even collect garbage. However, for many decades, no measures have been taken to revive the pond,’’ said the official.