“Use of clay is an effective alternative as it is locally procured”

For devotees and tourists who visit the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, the sight of the Golden Lotus Tank brimming with water is one to behold. The temple tank is one of the few in the city which has retained water over the last year, despite scarce rainfall.

Professor Ravindra Gettu from the Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, who led the study and, took steps for the restoration of the temple tank, was honoured by Karumuttu T. Kannan, the ‘Thakkar’ of the Meenakshi Temple, and P. Jayaraman, Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department and Executive Officer of the temple.

A study was initiated in 2011 by a team from the IIT Madras following the Chief Minister’s instructions to restore the tank.

Speaking on the process undertaken, Dr. Gettu said that concrete slabs which had been laid on the bottom of the tank nearly 30 years ago were affecting water retention.

“The slabs were damaged and any water that the tank could store would just percolate into the ground or drain away through cracks and leaks on the side walls of the tank”, he explained.

Clay samples from 7 tanks around the city which had effectively stored water were analyzed for permeability.

“Clay from the Keelamathur Tank was selected after testing since it effectively held up against water percolation when water pressure increased,” Mr Gettu said.

He added that the use of clay was an effective alternative since it was locally procured, simple and eco-friendly.

A 4-feet layer of clay was laid inside the tank and the 165 x 120 feet tank which has a depth of 4 feet can hold nearly 17 lakh litres of water.

“With an effective rainwater harvesting system already in place in the temple for many years now, all the water collected in the temple drain into the tank”, said Mr. Kannan.

“A new wall was also built to prevent leakage of water from the sides”, he added.

When asked if the same solution could be used at the ‘Teppakulam’ of the temple, Mr. Jayaraman said that while they could lay the tankbed with an effective substance to prevent percolation, retaining water would not be assured.

“Since the tank is sprawling in its area, evaporation would happen much faster. The construction of a new channel which can bring water from the Vaigai, provided there is rainfall is being explored”, he said.

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