Hundreds of volunteers have helped to clean water bodies but sewage flow and debris dumping continue

During the last one year, hundreds of volunteers participated in initiatives to clean five water bodies in the city – Coimbatore Big Tank, Kurichi Tank, Kurichi canal, Valankulam and Selva Chinthamani Tank.

While we dream of seeing the tanks and canals filled with water again, maintenance of the water bodies and sustenance of the cleaning and desilting works is turning out to be a challenge, especially as flow of sewage into the tanks and dumping of debris continue.

Even five or six decades ago, tanks filled with water from the Noyyal, a thick tree cover full of birds, lush green fields, and birds that visit water bodies were all part of Coimbatore, thanks to the Noyyal River System.

The System, which includes 21 anaicuts, 31 tanks, and 100 km of canals, from the origin of the Noyyal till the river joins the Cauvery at Noyyal village in Erode district, has been an enviable asset for the region.

However, some of the water bodies in the region have shrunk in size and canals have been blocked with development activities during the last few years.

Now, the entire system needs to be revived if every water body has to be rejuvenated.

In a bid to rejuvenate these tanks, the young and old, students, businessmen, government employees and even top officials have involved themselves in removing tonnes of garbage and debris as part of the cleaning efforts during the last one year.

But, a couple of days ago, sand excavated during road work was dumped at the Kurichi canal that was cleaned in May.

This has blocked the flow of water to the Kurichi Tank and has brought to focus the need for an action plan to maintain the water bodies.

Vanita Mohan, Managing Trustee of Siruthuli, says that with public coming together to clean the tanks, the Government has also stepped in and this is a move in the right direction.

Maintenance of the water bodies are likely to face challenges initially.

It will be a long-drawn process and requires continuous higher public awareness on the need to maintain the tanks.

According to Umesh Marudhachalam, who was involved in organising the cleaning of the Kurichi canal, non-Governmental organisations and volunteers can create awareness on the need to conserve the water bodies. They can also take part in the cleaning activities.

However, the maintenance can be effective only if the Government takes it up. The public will feel discouraged to participate in such initiatives if the tanks are not maintained.

According to him, inflow of sewage into the water bodies should be stopped and local leaders and the public in the nearby areas of the water bodies should also be involved actively in the conservation programmes.

Awareness

R. Raveendran, secretary of Residents’ Awareness Association of Coimbatore, adds that the cleaning activities had created awareness among the public and there can be public-private initiatives for cleaning of the tanks in summer. The main challenge is dumping of debris in the canals or on the tank bunds. The association had sought fencing of the water bodies.

Though the officials of the Corporation were not available for comment on Tuesday, one of them told The Hindu recently that the local body was pursuing the Rs.200-crore tanks rejuvenation project and had also sought funds under the National Lake Conservation Programme.