Quick fix not the answer to Putheri lake’s pollution woes

On October 19, water outlets at Putheri Lake witnessed large-scale foaming and subsequently, the corporation officials laid the blame on the accumulation of water hyacinth.
Corporation workers clearing hyacinths at Putheri lake in Pallavaram | Ashwin Prasath
Corporation workers clearing hyacinths at Putheri lake in Pallavaram | Ashwin Prasath

CHENNAI:  Though the assessment of water samples from Putheri Lake found the contents to be within limits stipulated by the Central Pollution Control Board and the corporation staff removed water hyacinth from the waterbody, the residents in Pallavaram are far from satisfied. They sought a permanent solution to prevent pollution and rejuvenate the waterbody. 

On October 19, water outlets at Putheri Lake witnessed large-scale foaming and subsequently, the corporation officials laid the blame on the accumulation of water hyacinth. However, the local residents said large-scale pollution on the entire lake stretch led to the foaming. Putheri lake, spread over 10.45 acres, is a major waterbody in Chennai, as the excess water from Periya Eri drains into Pallikaranai marshlands through the Putheri and Kilkattalai lakes. 

The National Green Tribunal, in a judgment dated July 18, 2022, pronounced orders for preventing pollution and removing encroachments on the water body. Residents lamented that the orders were not entirely implemented and this has taken a toll on the lake’s well-being.

Following the foaming incident last month, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) collected samples from the lake for testing. Based on the test report, the corporation later clarified that no industrial effluent was found in the water. But, the residents said all measures taken by the corporation to save the lake so far were an eyewash, and sought a permanent resolution for the issue 

Sewage discharge is the main contributing factor to the lake’s pollution, says David Manohar, a local resident and activist. “There is no largescale industry in Pallavaram, and so sewage discharge is the main problem. The underground drainage system is non-functional in many areas and sewage is let out through stormwater drains. The corporation has not taken any step to address these issues,” he added. 

Meanwhile, experts have called for coordinated measures to address the issue. “The foaming is just one isolated incident, whereas several factors like encroachment, are gradually degrading the waterbody. All lakes are in desperate need of protection, and concerted efforts of all government departments are needed to prepare an action plan and implement it,” said A Janagaraj, a renowned water management expert. 

A senior official from Tambaram corporation told TNIE, “Isolated incidents of illegal sewage discharge cannot be attributed as the only reason for pollution in the lake. We have asked for a more detailed report from the Anna University. Based on their recommendations, further action will be taken.”

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