Neglected for two decades, the pond had degenerated into a collection point for sewage and grey water. But now, the water body is being desilted as part of a rejuvenation project. K. Manikandan reports

For over 20 years, Vannaan Kulam on Manimekalai Street (Extension) in East Tambaram was just a cesspool of sewage and grey water. But now, in a span of a month, it is showing signs of turning into something of inestimable value to the residents.

Around a month ago, the Tambaram Municipality embarked on a plan to rejuvenate the pond, for which a sum of Rs. 24 lakh was sanctioned from its general funds. As the first step, the pond is being desilted. For the past few weeks, nearly 100 lorry loads of sludge were pumped out and dumped at low-level areas, including the cremation shed and burial ground near the pond.

Officials said that the sludge would dry up and form a natural layer of mud in these areas.

Before the late 1980s, when it slipped into neglect, Vannaan kulam was a clean and pure waterbody, with residents drawing water from it for bathing and washing purposes. Some Manimekalai residents said that there was also a time when its water was potable.

“I do not remember people drawing water from the pond for cooking and drinking. Nevertheless it was clean and pure, free from any form of pollution,” said V. Umapathy, a resident. The pond, according to official sources, was once spread over 1.95 acres. But, as a result of unchecked encroachments over these years, it shrunk to 50 cents (half-an-acre).

Grey water and sewage from residential localities in wards 14 to 17 found their way into the pond through a series of natural channels. Over the years, the problem had become so acute that many families who made Manimekalai Street their home, were not even aware that such a pond existed, Mr. Umapathy noted.

The pond has now been nearly desilted and deepened by a few feet. The sides have been strengthened with the construction of concrete walls. Work on creation of a walkers’ pathway is underway, according to M. Karikalan, Tambaram Municipal Chairman. Municipal officials said a series of storm water drains had been constructed at a cost of Rs. 48 lakh and the grey water generated in the four wards was being drained elsewhere, thereby preventing further contamination of the pond.

The remaining work will be completed in a couple of weeks’ time, officials added. Residents said the work was long pending and that the stretch around the pond was an eye-sore. Municipal officials also said there were a number of such small water bodies, including the ponds in Kannadapalayam and West Tambaram, that had fallen into neglect and the administration had drawn up an action plan to spruce them up.

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