Citizens group makes a beginning in reviving the 140-acre lake near Tiruchi

Petty-shop owners of Ponmalaipatti, which was slowly stirring to life on Sunday morning, were puzzled by one question repeated every few minutes since 7 a. m: “Where is Mavadi Kulam?”

A little-known water body in Tiruchi became the talk of the neighbourhood as 60 to 70 persons found their way to the out-of-the way tank. The only identity Mavadi Kulam retains of once being a water body is a small shallow puddle of water. The rest of its 143-acre spread is an accumulation of dried water hyacinths, six-feet-high weeds, broken glass bottles, and plastic.

From 7.30 a.m., a small but ardent motley of volunteers, armed with sickles and spades, cut away weeds and cleared away the vast stretches of dried hyacinths clogging the tank, spearheaded by Vinothraj Seshan, member of environmental group Naam Namadhu Bhoomi. “This is just a small beginning, but we have taken a step further than complaining about drinking water scarcity,” says Mr.Vinothraj, who dreams of rejuvenating the tank with the hope of recharging groundwater.

Various parts of the dry tank have been in use for different purposes – there is waste being dumped and burnt, a small portion under cultivation, and sand dugout for cementing roads. But long-time residents paint a different picture of the tank.

“Fifteen years ago, this lake was filled to the brim,” remembers Paulraj, a resident. “We used to come and fish here every weekend,” says Neelamegam, who lives at Ponmalaipatti.

T.Kumar, a bird watcher who has lived at Ponneripuram for 40 years, says, “We have spotted at least 30 types of birds here.”

Residents say that repeated efforts by various administrators to revive the tank has never borne fruit due to various reasons, but hope a public initiative may just do that . “Even during summers, we find water in our well at home. It is only because of the tank,” says Mr.Kumar. “But I live very close to the tank. If the weeds are cleared, even residents in far-flung areas will benefit.”

Vinothraj’s plan is in-sync with their hopes. “By reviving the tank we can ensure that residents within a radius of 10-15 km will benefit, especially during dry summers . We also plan to create tiny islets for birds to breed.”

But a mammoth task lies ahead.

“It is possible with more human effort and financial aid. We can speed up the process if the government steps in and makes this a public-government initiative.”

Volunteers hope government or service organisations sponsor equipment to clear away the massive weeds. “The numbers are sure to multiply,” asserts G.H.Kumar, a member of IAC-Tiruchi. “At least one representative from organisations such as Rotary, Lions Club, Tennis Association, Gramadeepa Makkal Sakthi Iyakkam, Siram Youth Trust, All India Students Federation, and facebook groups like ‘Namma Trichy ‘and I love Trichy’ have turned up. They are sure to bring along more.”

The team hopes the tank would not only be a part of the solution to water shortage, but also a leisure spot for people of Tiruchi to enjoy nature. The clean-up campaign will continue every Sunday at 7 a.m.

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