Environmentalists in Salem keen to protect Mookaneri Lake

Special Correspondent
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It was restored by Salem Citizens Forum under public initiative

Under threat:Environmentalists are fighting to protect Mookaneri Lake in Salem and prevent it going dry. –Photo: E. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN
Under threat:Environmentalists are fighting to protect Mookaneri Lake in Salem and prevent it going dry. –Photo: E. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN

Environmentalists here are waging a grim battle to keep the picturesque Mookaneri Lake alive.

The Public Works Department’s (PWD) 39-acre water spread, resurrected in 2010 by Salem Citizens Forum at a cost of Rs. 87 lakh under the public initiative, is now a sweet home to birds and flora of all hues.

The lake has turned into a tourists’ paradise today with forum members planning to carry out further development projects such as park and other basic amenities.

But this innovative initiative, regarded to be the first of its kind in the State, is facing what nature lovers claim is a sly attempt of a powerful lobby of realtors who want the lake to be dry and dead.

“We sweated out to make it, once a picture of neglect, into a mini sanctuary for water birds. Today it sports 12,000 trees with many man-made islets. Grass varieties such as ‘kora’ and ‘vetiver,’ are acting as filters. The residents are happy as groundwater has got recharged,” said Piyush Sethia, forum’s spokesperson.

Elsewhere in the city, one has to punch bores for a depth of 800 feet to get little or no water.

PWD’s Water Resource Organisation (WRO), he said, had taken up a project in one of its water carrying channels that would snuff out lake’s life.

“The scheme, to be executed under the ruse of arresting the domestic sewage flow into the Lake, will actually benefit realtors.

“The project aims at to divert the sewage flow into the surplus channel and then into Tirumanimutharu River course, would stop runaway rain waters that the channel has been carrying so far into the lake,” Sethia said.

He said that two streams, one from Mannarpalyam and Kannankurichi Lake in North East and the other one from Gorimedu in North West bring waters to the lake.

“Despite dismal rainfall, we have 12-feet of water in the Lake, the only water spread to have copious water today. But the move to divert the flow in the North West channel will dry the lake up,” he said.

“An acre of land near the Lake is selling at Rs. 3 crore. A dead and dried up lake will fetch more,” he claimed.

The Salem District administration, he urged, should review the distribution of ‘Neer Pudi’ pattas that empower people to carry on agri-related activities inside the tank bed at times of drought.

“These pattas have been converted into regular pattas, which in turn benefit real estate owners. Hence the project should be shelved,” he said. Activists also demanded that PWD should not permit sewage inflows into the traditional water carrying channels.

Refuting their claims, Assistant Executive Engineer, WRO, PWD, Salem, Premkumar told The Hindu that on request from ayacutdars, the project of diverting the sewage from entering the lake had been taken up at a cost of Rs. 75 lakh.

“The heavy sewage inflow into the lake has polluted not only its water but also formed massive silt leading to groundwater pollution. The work involves of erecting two shutters — one to permit rain waters into the lake and another to prevent sewers from entering the lake,” he said.

“At any cost, rain waters will not be stopped. Besides we always respect ayacutdars rights,” he said.

Rapid urbanisation however has reduced its ayacut area to a mere 75 acres from 450 acres.

  • The picturesque lake is now a tourists’ paradise with more projects planned

  • Nature lovers say a powerful lobby of realtors wants the lake to go dry




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