When focus shifts to conservation of wetlands

The Ukkadam Big Tank that was beautified by the Coimbatore Corporation by constructing retaining wall and walkers’ path.   | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

Since July 2017, when the Coimbatore Corporation declared it as Urban Biodiversity Conservation Zone for its rich flora and fauna, conservation activities at Singanallur Tank is touted as a model to be followed in other water bodies associated with Noyyal river system in the district.

The tank in Coimbatore, sprawling on 288 acres, bagged the biodiversity tag through consistent conservation efforts by the Centre for Urban Biodiversity Conservation and Education (CUBE), a voluntary organisation, backed by the civic body and Forest Department.

Around 750, including 170 species of birds, 400 species of plants, and 70 species of butterflies were recorded by local researchers in and around the tank. Considering its biodiversity richness, a team of experts conducted an exploratory study in September this year to document birds, plants, insects, reptiles and aquatic species that are home to the tank.

CUBE is currently conducting nature trail for school students to educate them on the importance of biodiversity and conservation. While fishing has been reduced in the tank, Hindu organisations and political parties have agreed to abstain from immersion of Vinayaka idols in the water body.

Of the 28 tanks that are part of the Noyyal system including Singanallur Tank, many are seeing signs of revival through efforts of environmental NGOs. According to people associated with these NGOs and reclamation of the Noyyal, dumping of wastes into canals that connect the river to water bodies and pollution are dangers lurking at tanks in Coimbatore.

In Coimbatore city, the corporation that has eight tanks under its maintenance, has just started implementing projects, thanks to financial support from the Government of India under the Smart Cities Mission. The civic body took control of the tanks from the Public Works Department in 2010 to develop these under the then Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. But it could not take it forward following objections from environmentalists, who said the project was aimed at monetising the water bodies by turning them into tourist spots. The corporation again mooted the lake development project in 2016, this time under the Smart Cities Mission. It secured approval from the Central and State governments.

Officials say the corporation would clean the water flowing into the tanks through natural treatment mechanism, beautify the bunds, and construct recreation facilities so that they were turned into places of public congregation. The ₹200 crore-plus project also includes dreding the tanks, strengthening the bunds, de-weeding and improving the connectivity among the tanks.

As part of the project, the corporation had begun relocating people who had encroached upon the tanks to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenements.

The flipside of the project, however, is that the civic body has the control of only the tanks and not the channels that convey water. The task of maintaining the channels still rests with the PWD. Environmentalists have argued that unless the channels are also cleaned and developed, the sewage flow into the channels would continue.

The officials content the chances of sewage flowing into the channels were few because the underground drainage system that would soon be operational would take care of the sewage.

In Erode district, the Vellode Bird Sanctuary spread across 77.185 hectares is one of the main wetlands and it is home to both domestic and foreign birds during the season from November to March every year. The wetland comprises the 75.93 hectare Periyakulam Lake and 1.25 hectare Odai and is home to flora, fish, and reptiles.

The main source of water for the lake is the rain and the seepage water from the Lower Bhavani Project (LBP) canal. Over 115 bird species were recorded in the past years in the sanctuary. Due to poor monsoon, the lake did not receive adequate water in the past year resulting in the birds not turning up for the season.

K. Ravindran, president, Nature Society of Tirupur, said that a large number of inland birds arrive regularly and adequate water should be available in the lake.

Erode District Forest Officer Vismiji Viswanathan said works to the tune of ₹4.90 crore, including deepening the lake, strengthening the existing bunds, and creation of new bunds were being carried out with funding from the Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu. Phase One works are in progress and other works will begin soon, he added.

The district administration had earlier written to the State government to draw water from the canal to the lake so that it gets filled up during the season. However, no action has been taken so far.

(with inputs from Karthik Madhavan, Wilson Thomas, and S.P. Saravanan)

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:22:45 AM |

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