The century old pond off the National Highway near Perumugai village once used to be huge and brimming with water, said Varadhan, a sexagenarian and native of Perumugai. The pond has become a garbage and sewage collection point now, and the six-laning work undertaken by the National Highways Authority has reduced it to half its size, rues Varadhan.
Residents of Perumugai have appealed to the highways department to desilt the pond and re-build it.
“As a kid, I have seen hundreds of pilgrims from various parts of Vellore carrying ‘kaavadi’ and going to Tiruthani to take part in the Aadi Krithigai festival. They would rest in the shade of the trees near the tank and have food. They would also bathe before continuing the journey,” Varadhan added. He regretted that the pond, which once used to be the pride of the village, had turned into an eyesore.
Some of the elders of the village recalled that the pond used to be one of the biggest rainwater harvesting structures in the village.
A farmhand Murugan (70) said the destruction started with the encroachment of the canal from the nearby hills that used to bring water to the pond. Later, construction of houses around the pond led to the pond becoming a dumpyard. The open well on the other side of the road near the pond also got buried when the road expansion work was undertaken.
Another pond in the Alamelumangapuram village also got destroyed due to highway expansion work. Social activist R Chandrasekaran said, “When the government is spending huge sums on rainwater harvesting campaigns, ponds like this which are on the verge of ruin should be given top priority for revival.”
The national highway expansion work has destroyed several ponds, he said, and urged the NHAI to present a white paper in this regard and volunteer to build twice the number of ponds lost.