‘No work has taken place since the Corporation took over the tanks’
In three-and-a-half years since the Coimbatore Corporation took over from the Public Works Department (PWD) eight tanks in the city to rejuvenate these under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the PWD is making concerted efforts to get back the custody of the water bodies arguing that no work has taken place since the Corporation took over the tanks.
The PWD authorities in Coimbatore also appear to have told higher officials in Chennai that they wished to develop the Big Tank at Ukkadam into a tourism spot, perhaps even introduce a boating facility. The other tanks are: Valankulam, Narasampathy, Krishnampathy, Muthanankulam, Selvampathy, Selvachinthamani and the Singanallur Tank.
Sources in the PWD told The Hindu that the department was upset at the way the Corporation had allowed encroachments to thrive on the tanks. The civic body is accused of not preventing encroachments and even allowing unauthorised settlers in Valankulam to have facilities such as roads and retaining wall that will prevent inflow of water.
The PWD wants to take up the rejuvenation of the tanks with funding under the National Lake Conservation Programme. It is said that the existing condition of the tanks had been brought to the notice of the PWD Secretary and he, in turn, has asked the officials in Coimbatore to send a list of reasons as to why the PWD wants to take over the tanks again.
It is also said that the PWD has stepped up its efforts in the wake of S.M. Velusamy exiting as the Mayor. He was reportedly putting up a strong resistance to the PWD taking back the tanks. Along with Siruthuli, a citizen’s initiative to rejuvenate water resources, the Corporation wanted to turn tanks such as the Valankulam into a picnic spot. The tug-of-war began in 2005 when the Corporation sought custody of the tanks from the PWD. The custody was granted only in early 2010. The civic body even engaged Action for Food Production, a non-Governmental organisation, to study the condition of the tanks and suggest measures for rejuvenation. The tasks to be done were desilting, removal of encroachments, preventing the dumping of waste and discharge of sewage.
However, even Siruthuli has been lamenting the manner in which debris and other kinds of waste that are being dumped in the tanks.
Deputy Commissioner of the Corporation S. Sivarasu said the Corporation was pursuing the Rs.200-crore tanks rejuvenation project closely and that it had also sought funds under the NLCP, in addition to the JNNURM funds from the Central and State governments.
It is not as though the Corporation had not made any effort in taking the scheme forward or not focussed on the problems such as encroachment that impeded rejuvenation, he said.
(With additional reporting by T. Ramakrishnan in Chennai)