Eco-restoration of 100 acres on southern part of marshland under way

Eco-restoration of a portion of Pallikaranai marshland is currently under way. Once completed, it will increase the roosting area for birds, and also help in improving ground water table in nearby residential localities.

Work is under progress on about 100 acres of land near the southernmost point of the marshland. The area lies behind the nearly-400 acre ELCOT Special Economic Zone on Perumbakkam Main Road which connects Velachery Main Road at Medavakkam and Rajiv Gandhi Salai at Sholinganallur junction.

Forest department officials said, at present, mounds were being created by scooping out earth. The dug out parts had accumulated water due to the recent rains resulting in a profusion of fish and snails that in turn attracted birds.

The Pallikaranai wetland is one of the most important ecosystems in the metropolis. The marshland was originally spread over nothing less than 5,000 hectares and has now reduced to around 500 hectares due to indiscriminate construction and dumping of garbage.

An announcement in the policy note of the State government’s forest department last year set the ball rolling for the restoration project as well as the creation of a conservation authority.

The completion of the eco-restoration project will take five years and cost about Rs. 15 crore. However, it was not until early this year that preliminary work on the wetland began.

A water course spread over two hectares is being spruced up. Water channels that transport run-off during the monsoon from Perumbakkam and other areas to the Okkiyam Maduvu through the marshland are also being deepened and desilted.

Not only will this prevent flooding of localities on either sides of Perumbakkam Main Road, but also increase the level of water inside the 100-acre area, an official said.

A bund for a distance of more than 3,000 metres is being developed and when completed, nature lovers will be able to walk along the periphery.

An observation centre from where visitors can watch the birds will come up inside the core area of Pallikaranai marshland.

Also in the pipeline is an interpretation centre where photographs of birds that visit the marshland will be displayed. This will encourage schools and colleges to conduct educational tours and also raise awareness among the public about the rich flora and fauna, the official said.

Sources said a few thousand saplings of Arjuna (neer maththi), Portia (poovarasan), bamboo (moongil) and rosewood (sisu) would be planted here.

According to K.V.R.K. Thirunaran of The Nature Trust, nothing less than 127 varieties of birds have been sighted at Pallikaranai, significantly higher than the number at Vedanthangal.

This went to prove the diversity and importance of the wetland, he said.

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