Chennai

Parked well in the public gaze

A nerium growing in a well that fell into disuse and then became a “space” for dumping waste on Annai Indira Street in Sholinganallur. The Corporation is planning to convert this well into a recharge well.

A nerium growing in a well that fell into disuse and then became a “space” for dumping waste on Annai Indira Street in Sholinganallur. The Corporation is planning to convert this well into a recharge well.   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

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Will ‘creative restoration’ of abandoned wells drive home a rainwater-harvesting message?

A lone nerium stands by the side of a nondescript road, blushing pink. Up close, it looks odder than it seemed at first sight. The oddity factor has nothing to do with the pink nerium itself, but with where it stands.

It is up there on an earthy platform with a circular concrete casing. It is heartening to think that people went to the trouble of creating such a provision for a plant.

Closer still, the picture changes again.

It is not a specially-created platform, but the vestiges of what was once a well meant for public use. A Corporation staff and a resident confirm the fact.

The well had apparently fallen into disuse long ago, and became a convenient receptacle to dump garbage. With the dumping continuing unabated, those living close-by were continually reminded of the well’s presence.

“The pulley and supporting structure fell into the well, and garbage was being thrown into it every day. The stench would be hanging in the air,” says the resident. To prevent it from being misused any further, a nerium was planted by the resident.

While the greening exercise had been carried out with the best of intentions, the well has to return to being a well. In its new avatar, it can be a recharge well, which should not be a problem as currently there is an official drive to reinvent abandoned wells as recharge wells.

I learn that the team from Zone 15 of Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) in charge of the work to convert abandoned wells into recharge wells has marked this one for restoration.

It is now widely known that in Chennai, the GCC and the Chennai Metrowater are restoring abandoned wells, turning them into recharge facilities.

One singular feature of this drive is that every zone of the Corporation earmarks a small number of wells for “creative restoration”.

As was reported sometime ago in these pages, some abandoned wells have morphed into “artworks” on their way to becoming functional recharge wells. This focus at the zonal level is reportedly based on instructions from Ripon Buildings.

Obviously, the more offbeat the theme, the better the chances of a jazzed-up well getting noticed. Besides, the wells that are artfully restored have to be on busy sections so that they can be symbols of a rainwater-harvesting message.

So, zonal officials say they reserve creative restoration for those wells that are found in spaces where people are likely to congregate in huge numbers.

In Zone 15, at the Ward 197 office in Karapakkam. The well resembles a bamboo basket with a stainless-steel handle. A few paces away from the recharge well, there is a Corporation community hall, and the well is well within the sight of visitors.

A bamboo basket-shaped recharge well at the 197 ward office in Karapakkam.

A bamboo basket-shaped recharge well at the 197 ward office in Karapakkam.   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

“Even if ten people take a rainwater-harvesting message from the exercise, it is well worth the effort,” says D. Sukumar, zonal officer, Zone 15, GCC.

Keeping this focus, an abandoned well is being restored in the shape of a pot, on the premises of a balwadi at the intersection of Annai Indira Street and Village High Road in Sholinganallur.

It is good that every zone pursues its own themes, and thereby adding variety to the exercise.

In Zone 14, there is an element of “edibleness” to a couple of restored wells. On a section of Panchayat Main Road in Perungudi, that is just fleeting-short jogs away from the Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram Radial Road and the IT Corridor, a restored public well masquerades as a “pineapple” with a “knife” plunged into it. On Gangai Amman Koil Street in Puzhuthivakkam, an abandoned well has been turned into a sliced “water-melon”, again with a “knife” making its way through the fruit.

A pineapple-shaped recharge well at Panchayat Main Road in Perungudi.

A pineapple-shaped recharge well at Panchayat Main Road in Perungudi.   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

A watermelon-shaped recharge well at Gangai Amman Koil Street in Puzhuthivakkam.

A watermelon-shaped recharge well at Gangai Amman Koil Street in Puzhuthivakkam.   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

“Concrete, plaster-of-paris, bricks, and special paints have gone into the making of the designs. Artisans who specialise in such art-works were brought on board,” says S. Baskaran, zonal officer, Zone 14, GCC.

Across Chennai, around the recharge wells restored in this manner, there is often a general rainwater-harvesting message, usually painted on a wall nearby.

Instead, would it not be better if the rainwater-harvesting and recharging process is explained through signages? There are chambers and filter-media to be seen, and there could be some displayed explanation about how they fit into the process.

(At a later date, The Hindu Downtown will run images of restored wells from many other zones that have some unique features to offer the human eye.)

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 3:53:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-corporation-restored-old-wells-in-style/article30060099.ece

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