They are reviving a two-century-old waterbody 40 km from city

It is a new path that the NSS (National Service Scheme) volunteers of the College of Engineering, Anna University, decided to take recently. Going beyond routine activities such as awareness campaigns, they are reviving a nearly two-century-old waterbody about 40 km from the city.

A total of 175 student-volunteers, along with three faculty members, are camping at Chinnambedu village, Tiruvallur district, since June 23. The project involves removal of vegetation from the lake. The volunteers, armed with tools, walk a few kilometres daily and work till evening to clear the weeds that have occupied a large portion of the lake. Though the lake is a crucial source of water for farming in the area, it is in a derelict condition for several years now. Originally, the lake spanned over 1,500 acres, but with the overgrowth of vegetation and encroachments, the area has shrunk. The lake caters to the irrigation needs of 10 villages nearby.

It is a first-time experience for most of the students belonging to various streams. While some of them are also involved in organising medical camps, others clean the lake in batches of 50 and conduct a survey to ascertain the needs of the villagers.

Sneha Viswalingam, a first-year student, said: “This camp has taught me a lot. I am visiting a village for the first time. Removing weeds is difficult work. I am happy that I am contributing a small part in rejuvenating the waterbody.”

For A.M.A. Halliq, a final-year student, it is his third visit to the village. “Villagers teach us the technique to remove weeds. We also take classes for children in the village and find out about the needs and issues concerning the villages, including sanitation and education,” he said.

A.N.K. Jayamohan, president of Chinnambedu Water Users Association, said the lake had a capacity of storing nearly one thousand million cubic feet of water. But villages dependent on the waterbody benefit only for a few months owing to poor maintenance of the lake. The seven sluice gates are badly damaged. By undertaking the work, the NSS volunteers also seek to create awareness of community involvement.

The Chinnambedu Water Users' Association, which was formed under the IAMWARM project of the Water Resources Department, has nearly 1,500 members, he said. G. Sakthinathan, NSS programme officer, said: “The village was adopted in 2008. We wanted to make a difference and decided to clean a stretch of 2 km of the lake bed with support from corporates and Rotary Club of Madras Temple City. NSS volunteers also conduct career guidance programmes during the seven-day camp. Earlier, students developed seed sowing machines and pesticide sprayers for the farmers here.”

This year, the manufacturing engineering department students had designed sluice gates. The team plans to demonstrate it to the WRD soon, he said.