After years of neglect and human contamination, help is at hand for three lakes in the fringes of the city.

A few days ago, preliminary work on improving the lakes in Porur, Ayanambakkam near Thiruverkadu and Nemam near Chembarambakkam began. Though a government order was issued over a year ago to undertake work to increase the storage capacity of the lakes, the Rs. 130-crore project faced several obstacles such as delay in tendering process.

The project aims to strengthen the bund, desilt and deepen the water bodies by 2 metres and rejuvenate surplus channels.

Misuse of water body

Residents of Porur said the lake was often used as a makeshift dumping yard and cesspool to release sewage. Though encroachments have been removed, the water body continues to face the threat of fresh encroachments.

The other two water bodies in Ayanambakkam and Nemam have been exploited by private water suppliers and illegal sand miners.

For residents of Ayanambakkam, the water body is the main source of groundwater recharge. They want the WRD to expedite work as the weak lake bund often gets breached during rains. Residents of Dinesh Nagar said, when the roads got submerged after downpour, they used makeshift thermocol boats to commute.

The Water Resources Department (WRD) had proposed to increase the storage capacity of four water bodies, including Cholavaram reservoir, by nearly 600 million cubic feet (mcft), envisaging the drinking water needs of expanded Chennai in the future. At present, about 1,000 mcft is drawn from the three major reservoirs in Chembarambakkam and Red Hills to supply 810 million litres of water every day.

While work on augmenting storage at Cholavaram reservoir was completed last year, it took many months for the project to kick off in the other water bodies.

Preliminary work in progress

Officials of WRD said preliminary work on laying inspection track along the bund and stationing of equipment was in progress at all the water bodies. The first step was to fence the lakes to protect them from further abuse and encroachments.

The department proposes to fence off the lake along a radius of seven km. Thanthikal channel, which links the water bodies in Porur and Chembarambakkam, will also be improved.

“We have started demarcating the lakes’ boundaries with the help of the revenue department. We are co-ordinating with the local bodies and the Chennai Corporation to plug illegal sewage outfalls in the lakes,” said an official. The project is expected to be completed in 18 months.

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