For the residents of Mangannoorkonam in the Pattom ward, the abandoned pond in the middle of their neighbourhood had remained a curse for almost 25 years. Covered with weeds and garbage, the waterbody was an eyesore they had to put up with. That is, until the Kerala State Biodiversity Board stepped in with a restoration project earlier this year.

With the Mangannoorkonam Residents’ Association accepting the offer, the project took off in April.

Heavy work

More than 100 truckloads of silt and garbage were removed, the dirty water drained off and the retaining walls repaired. The association also erected a fence and created a green belt around the pond with vetiver and medicinal trees. Solar lights have been installed and a shuttle court has also come up on the premises.

The association has procured an inflatable boat and children undergo swimming classes in the clear water. “Thanks to the KSBB, the pond has been transformed from a curse into a blessing,” said S.B. Krishnakumar, association secretary.

“Today, it is a recreation centre for the entire locality,” he said. Last week, the KSBB released a fresh fish seed stock of the grass carp variety into the pond.

The KSBB has restored three other ponds at Paruthippara, Nalanchira and Poojappura. Three more ponds at Pongumoodu, Vattiyurkavu, and Kazhakuttam are to be taken up for restoration soon under a participatory programme for conservation of urban biodiversity. The board is procuring fish seeds from Alappuzha to be released into the restored ponds.

“After restoration, it is up to the residents’ association to conserve the pond and beautify and maintain the premises,” said Oommen V. Oommen, Chairman, KSBB. “Grass carp is released into the ponds to keep the water clear of algae. We had to depend on the exotic carp because endemic species are not easily available. We ensure that the carp is contained within the waterbody. Efforts are on to procure native varieties,” he said.

Explaining the rationale of the programme, Prof. Oommen said haphazard urban growth had resulted in increased pressure on vulnerable social and ecological systems.

“Healthy ecosystems and biological diversity are vital for cities to function properly,” he said.