Rs.4.27-crore scheme announced; panel for its maintenance

The State government on Thursday announced a Rs.4.27-crore scheme to clean the Ooty lake, a major tourist attraction in this hill station.

Underscoring the importance of tourism and its role in generating employment, an official press release said the lake, spread over 20 hectares, was getting polluted due to the release of effluents through the Kodappamund Channel, which cuts through the town.

As per the action plan, the Kodappamund Channel would be desilted and untreated waste prevented from entering the lake. Simultaneously, the polluted water would be purified through biomethods, besides removing water hyacinth and other weeds. The funds would be provided under the Tamil Nadu Environment Protection and Renewable Energy Development Fund.

The release said Chief Minister Jayalalithaa also ordered the Udhagamandalam Municipality to ensure that 6,745 houses and commercial establishments were provided with underground sewerage connections in three months. The Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board is preparing a detailed project report for the nine wards that are not part of the underground sewerage scheme.

The Chief Minister has also ordered that a committee headed by the Collector and comprising officials, local body representatives and non-governmental organisations be formed and registered as a society. It should maintain the lake and prevent pollution.

A corpus of Rs. 50 lakh from the government and Rs. 50 lakh from the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) would be provided to the proposed society in the first phase. A sum of Rs. 25 lakh would be given to the society annually by the TTDC and the amount would be increased in accordance with the rise in revenue of the Corporation.

The society should use the funds for keeping the channel free of sewage and also for treatment of sullage and beautification of the lake.

Brought into existence in 1823-25 by John Sullivan, popularly referred to as the Founder of Ooty, the lake is among the top revenue earners for the TTDC. During the last fiscal the number of visitors was 17.18 lakh. Till September this fiscal 11.22 lakh tourists had visited the facility.

Geetha Srinivasan, convener of the Indian National Trust for Art Culture and Heritage (INTACH), the Nilgiris Chapter, hoped that the effort would lead to the restoration of the original glory of the lake. Pointing out that the lake had once been a source of drinking water, she said if the Thames river in London could be cleaned, this was possible in the Ooty lake also.

Pointing out that competition from other holiday destinations is growing, N. Chandrashekar, secretary of the Nilgiri Hotels and Restaurants Association (NHRA), said if interest in Ooty had to be sustained its scenic spots should be preserved.