Suburban waterbodies attract attention only during drought year

Chennai: In 2017, DMK president M K Stalin kickstarted the desilting work at a temple tank in Saidapet constituency represented by former city mayor M Subramanian.

Days after this development, the government announced the kudimaramathu scheme in which it was said the waterbodies would be desilted.

The project began from Manimangalam lake. Two years down the line, DMK cadres are protesting with empty pots to highlight the water crisis in the State, especially Chennai.

The government is planning to bring water from Jolarpet in Vellore district by rail wagons to Chennai.
Most of the lakes, such as Tambaram Kadaperi lake, Pallavaram Putheri lake, Chitlapakkam lake, Selaiyur lake, Sembakkam lake, Rajakilpakkam lake and Madambakkam lake and many more temple tanks are still in the condition they were in two years ago – some even worse.

If not for a few NGOs relentlessly fighting for the restoration of the lakes, things would not have been good for the city.

“The only time the suburban area comes to notice is when the city is in need of something. In the present scenario, the waterbodies in the suburban areas have garnered attention only to supply water to the people in the city. With not much water left in the waterbodies (the ones with water in them are polluted, so they cannot be used), focus is on the the quarries now. If only the waterbodies had been desilted in the past two years, we would not have faced such a crisis,” said Umesh, a resident of East Tambaram.

Encroachments were removed from a few waterbodies post the 2015 December floods; however, residents say there has been very little progress after that.

“I cannot stop wondering what is actually happening to our waterbodies. If the same condition prevails for the next few months, then I am pretty sure we will not be able to conserve water this year also and it will be a far worse summer next year,” Umesh added.

People are also worried about the lack of infrastructure to store rainwater. “It is so disheartening to see water from the recent rain going waste. I know this rain will not solve our water problems but they would have certainly helped in recharging the groundwater. I saw water stagnating in several places without a way to reach the soil. The end-to-end laying of road has not really helped the cause. Several roads are laid even without milling, which would make it difficult for the water to percolate,” said social activist Rajesh Kumar.

The Madras High Court recently came down heavily on encroachments on water bodies and has sought a detailed report about the number of lakes and reservoirs in the State besides steps taken for desilting.

A division bench of Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad was hearing a PIL seeking removal of encroachments in the feeding / supply channel from the Palar river to Udayendram lake in Vellore during which time the order was issued.

The bench also noted that some waterbodies had been encroached, reducing the size of the lakes.
‘Encroachment is also said to be one of the causes for the reduction of storage capacity of lakes and waterbodies. Secretary PWD, who is vested with the custody of preserving the lakes, is also directed to submit a detailed report of the steps taken for removal of encroachment.’

The court directed the PWD Secretary to issue a circular to all the collectors to submit details of the action taken for removal of encroachments in waterbodies. The case has been posted for further hearing 26 June.

Balasubramani Muniyandi