Six-year-old S. Sriram ran along the long lines of people who passed plastic basins filled with mud, earning cheers and claps as he carried empty plastic basins from the edge of Vandiyur tank bed.
He was among the youngest of the group of over 700 people who had gathered to begin an initiative to deepen the tank bed early on Wednesday.
Despite the calm and reticent air of a public holiday which prevailed in the city, people began assembling at the dry tank bed from 7 a.m.
The Federation for Vandiyur Tank Water Development (FVTWD), National Water Department Technology (NAWAD Tech) and residents from the areas near the tank facing a water crisis, including KK Nagar, Anna Nagar, Gomathipuram and Tahsildar Nagar, have come together to deepen the tank bed with a view to maintaining the tank as an effective summer storage facility.
College and school students, members of various NGOs, and joggers and walkers from Vandiyur Joggers Park joined them, and formed long human chains, passing mud dug from the tank bed in plastic basins and heaped it on the bund.
“As a person living in an area that can largely benefit from the restoration of this tank, I was happy to join in and help,” said S Ravi, a resident of Gomathipuram, shovelling mud into colourful plastic basins and passing them on to the long lines of people.
His nephew Sudarshan S, who is visiting the city for his holidays, also pitched in by lifting the lighter basins and passing them on to the volunteers.
Members of the FVTWD kept up a constant barrage of instructions through a loudspeaker, asking people to dump the mud on a particular area on the bund on the edge of the tank bed.
Collector L Subramanian, who inaugurated the initiative, too joined the line of people and helped pass basins of mud. College students formed a majority in the crowd. “When we were asked in our college if people were interested, at least a 100 people immediately volunteered to help despite the distance we had to cover to reach here,” said Rajalskhmi M, a student from the college in Melakuyilkudi.
For the residents of the Siddhi Vinaayagar Kovil Street, participating in an initiative like this meant leaving a brighter future for the next generation.
“After discussions and site inspections by a three-member technical team, sites with aquifers were identified and we will initially deepen the tank at those spots. The mud which will be dug out will then be used to create small islands with trees and plants that will attract birds,” explains Sheik Dawood, president of the FVTWD.
“With our search for water going deeper by the day, the restoration of the tank will prove to be instrumental in addressing water scarcity and will also improve the water quality,” said A.C. Kamaraj, Chairman, NAWAD Tech.