Various organisations are stressing on the need for community participation in the conservation of temple tanks and even temples themselves. Unless locals become aware that temple tanks help in groundwater recharge and are not dumpyards, restoration or rejuvenation won’t last long, they say.
“Earlier, people used to volunteer to maintain the temple tank; entire communities used to be involved in upkeep. But today, such tanks have lost their cultural identity. Any lake or pond restoration requires money in the modern age. More than money, the local community needs to own the water body,” said Arun Krishnamurthy, Founder, Environmentalist Foundation of India.
The community can help revive old water channels, said V. Subramani, founder, Sabari Green Foundation, whose organisation, along with local residents and other NGOs, is in the process of cleaning tanks belonging to the Odheeswarar temple and Siva Vishnu temples in Chennai.
“Many old channels that brought in water. Old timers would know from where the tanks get water. We need to identify, map and then, clean them. The cleaning must be done on a periodical basis so that water problems in the vicinity of temples can be resolved, ” he said.
V. Rama Rao, treasurer of the foundation, said that in many cases, they ensure that walkers’ paths, seating and lighting facilities are also created so that local residents can use them in the evenings. “This would help in community policing,” he said.
PUCL’s National Secretary and a founding member of The Barefoot Academy of Governance, V. Suresh said that long ago, the temple was a granary and the tank was a storage point for water. “The relationship between the temple, environment and the community needs to be revived. The HR and CE department is looking at temples in a very bureaucratic way,” he said.