The Periyakulam lake came alive on Sunday as nearly thousand people showed up to help de-silt the 320-acre water body

Sunday morning witnessed hectic activity of a different kind from residents of the city. People of various age groups, from a 10-year-old girl to a senior citizen, shrugged off weekend lethargy and participated in the shramdan to rejuvenate the Periyakulam.

Over a 1,000 people from different walks of life pitched in to make earthen mounds, part of the cleaning process of the Ukkadam big tank before the onset of the South West monsoon.

Work, and song too

There was the reassuring presence of 350 personnel from the Rapid Action Force and the Central Reserve Police Force whose quick hands and efficient discipline came in handy.

Banumathi Mami decided to sing for the hard working volunteers. She first picked the old hit Anne Anne Sippai Anne a choice that was relevant as the lyrics spoke of a wonderful city that was now no good. Her singing of old Tamil hits was met with cheers and laughter from her fellow volunteers. She also took song requests that she rephrased to suit the occasion. Elsewhere, the CRPF personnel sang Ganapathy Bappa Moriya, as they briskly passed on the mounds of silt.

A newly married couple, a group of excited college girls, a mother and daughter from Vellalore all worked in tandem. Their common objective was to de-silt the lake, thereby creating space for the free flow of water, creating islands dotted with beautiful trees and increasing birdlife.

T. Rangaraj said he and his wife, Shruthi, believed completely in the cause. “I run a catering service in the city and got married just a week ago. When I heard about this initiative from Vanitha Mohan of Siruthuli, I wanted to support it. Contribution from the youth is very important to get the de-silting done quickly, as water bodies are such an important resource” he said. For Shruthi, this was an extension of her activism for environmental causes from her college days. “I have participated in several rallies in college for the environment, but this is the first time I have actually got my hands dirty through physical work,” she said.

D. Indumathi, another volunteer had come down with her school-going daughter from Vellalore. They had skipped a family function to participate in the de-silting. “I manufacture jute bags in Vellalore and have campaigned actively against plastic use. Coimbatore has always been famous for its wetlands and weather, and both may become a thing of the past if proper steps aren’t taken. Every minute counts when it comes to rescuing our water bodies,” she said.

Enthusiastic college students, who have been involved in rescuing stray dogs and pups also joined the shramdan.

An urge to contribute

“I always had an urge to get involved in philanthropy and this was a good opportunity. I recently got together with my friends to rescue a group of abandoned stray dogs and handed them over to an animal shelter. When we came to know of the de-silting project through the Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC) there was no way we could refuse,” says R Nanditha, a second year student at the Coimbatore Institute of Technology.

“Most people are unaware that the Periyakulam extends to 320 acres. Many do not even know the location of this water body. Volunteering to de-silt the lake will serve as an eye-opener for the general public, and make them realise the true plight of the wetlands and motivate them to chip in to rescue them,” said Vanitha Mohan, managing trustee of Siruthuli.

The shramdan is also an exercise in increasing awareness of the vast potential and storage capacity of the water body, which is largely dry at the moment. They hope more volunteers will show in the ensuing Sundays. With the work progressing briskly, they hope to have the lake de-silted in four weeks time.

The volunteers vouched for a Sunday well spent, promising to bring in more of their friends and family next week.

We dream of…

A big, glistening lake

Islands in a stream

Green woods

Birdsong

Cooler climes