CHENNAI: Rampant pollution, allegedly caused by industries in the vicinity, resulted in the death of thousands of fish in the Tiruneermalai Lake on Saturday. Catla fish, varying from two to four feet, were found floating dead in the lake early in the morning. Residents who spotted the fish said the water in the lake had turned deep black in colour due to the release of industrial waste.
“Water has been deep black for the last two days, and there’s sludge,” said Vinoth Gajendran, a local resident. “It has now spread all across the lake.” Vinoth, who is also a pharmacist, did a test to find the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the water. The level was 818 mg/l, much higher than the permissible limits for drinking water.
The dead fish weighed 1-3 kg. Since the lake is spread across 167 acres, it’s difficult to estimate the actual number of the dead fish, said residents. “From Durga Nagar side alone, more than a thousand fish died. But if we look at LakshmiPuram and Thiruneermalai side, the number will be in five digits,’’ claims Vinoth.
The Catla Fish is an important source of livelihood for the local residents of Tiruneermalai. “While these fish are used only for consumption, the lake water is important for agriculture. But now, if we get into the water, it feels itchy and the stench has become unbearable,’’ says Pugazhventhan V of Tiruneermalai Nanbargal Kuzhu, a water-body conservation group.
By Saturday afternoon, most of the fish were in a decomposed state, further polluting the lake. The Public Works Department, the custodian of the lake, and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, who are responsible for holding the polluting industries accountable, turned a blind eye.
TNIE had reported twice in 2018 and 2019 about how chemical water filled up the lake. Only temporary measures were taken up to plug sewage while a permanent solution is awaited. In a similar incident in July, the lake turned completely green in colour after the continuous discharge of industrial effluents. After a TNIE report, officials inspected the spot and the pipe was disconnected.
While the Kancheepuram Collectorate recently gave permission for the lake restoration groups to clear Seemai Karuvellam, an invasive species growing in the lake bund, it’s water resources department that has to block sewage inflows and desilt the lake to save it from turning completely unusable.
When contacted by Express, officials with the WRD department said they would send people to clear off the dead fish by Saturday evening. ‘’Strict action will be taken against offenders once we find source of pollution,’’ said a WRD official.