People extend manual and monetary support to the effort that has official approval

Citizens of Chidambaram town have started cleaning up the temple tanks and common tanks that are dotting the town’s landscape to restore them. In this endeavour, being undertaken with the approval of the district administration, people from all walks of life, including students, teachers, merchants, traders, jewellery shop owners, vegetable vendors, women’s clubs and service organisations joined hands to contribute, by extending both manual and monetary support.

At present, desilting is under way in three temple tanks -the Ilamaiyakkinar temple, Thillai Kaali temple and Natarajar temple — and, in three common tanks such as Anna Kulam, Yanaimettu Kulam and the Oma Kulam.

At every tank, large number of people gathered to clear the rubbish littering the water bodies and trucks and tractor-trailers line up to carry away the dug out silt. For instance, at the Ilamaiyakkinar temple tank, 125 National Service Scheme volunteers, drawn from Annamalai University, armed with a mask and hand gloves, are studiously involved in the cleaning up operation.

At Oma kulam, a common facility, a JCB has been working overtime to scoop up the four-foot deep silt. Shanmugasundaram, who is overseeing the operation, said: “Digging will be taken up till sandy surface is struck. It is this sandy bed of the tank that would facilitate percolation of water (when the tank gets ample supply either from rain or from the feeder canals), which in turn will replenish the subsurface water reserves.”

He said the tank originally spread over nine acres got shrunk to five acres owing to encroachments. It was about 90 years ago that desilting was carried out in this tank, according to locals.

“There are five ancient wells in the tank bed but owing to heavy siltation these are not visible now. After the upper crust of the sedimentation is removed, efforts will be made to restore and rejuvenate these wells,” he said.

There is a great demand for the silt from the farmers in the surrounding areas as it is rich with micronutrients ideal for better crop yield. It is at their own cost that the farmers would have to take away the silt to their farms, locals said.

M. Senguttuvan, president of the Hindu Temple Protection Committee, which is spearheading the clean-up drive, said that the temple town was known for its umpteen number of temple tanks and common tanks, but over a period of time these had been reduced to mere cess pool, with their circumference shrunk owing to encroachments and dumping of garbage.

“The citizens are appalled by the drastic depletion in groundwater level that went down to 800ft to 1,000ft, and above all, the water quality too has deteriorated a great deal as it has turned saline,” Mr. Senguttuvan said.

It was after a monthlong sustained awareness campaign, through distribution of leaflets and holding meetings with various stakeholders that the conscience of the residents was stirred and they were nudged to act.

No political interference

Mr. Senguttuvan said, “The good aspect about the entire episode is that there is virtually no political interference, and if at all any, it is in the form of some sort of help to carry forward the exercise.”

Vice-president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association K.V. Kannan said, “Once the task is completed, the subsurface water profile in the entire town will improve.”

More In: Tamil Nadu | National