Asia’s second largest brackish water lagoon, the Pulicat lake, is turning into a garbage dump with residents, fisherfolk, shopkeepers and visitors using the water body to discard wastes.

On Saturday, a large group of volunteers, including school and college students, cleaned the lake and collected 1.5 tonnes of wastes.

The clean-up was organised by the Aarde Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, USA and Indian Maritime Foundation as part of the activities on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Empty liquor bottles, water sachets, plastic bags, oil cans and bottle lids formed 97 per cent of the garbage found in the seven-km long stretch from Kottaikuppam to Lighthouse kuppam beach. Last year, nearly 450 kg of waste were removed from the lake.

“The lake feeds hundreds of families, who depend on its crabs, prawns and fish. If we need this water body to remain for many more years, we need to protect it,” said a group of students of Government Higher Secondary School, Pazhaverkadu.

Pulicat has a total population of 21,460 persons. According to Xavier Benedict, founder of Aarde Foundation, the lake is used by locals as an open toilet, which has led to the water quality becoming poorer by the year.

“This water body has 17 endemic species including red crab, prawns and crabs and many of them are slowly disappearing. The quantity of these species caught here is coming down and thereby directly affecting the livelihood of the fishermen,” he said.

The volunteers from Sridevi Arts and Science College, Ponneri also distributed pamphlets, on the importance of segregating garbage and composting whatever could be, to residents and commercial establishments.

The cleanliness drive was flagged off by RDO S. Kandasamy, who stressed on the need for conservation of the lake, which was home to flamingos and pelicans as well.

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