The residents of this city can thank the Smart Cities Mission for funding a plan to give the small water bodies in Chennai Corporation limits a makeover. On Tuesday, a consultant submitted a plan to restore 32 lakes in the city. After eco-restoration of the lakes, the corporation will commission a monitoring system to assess the quality of water in the lakes on a periodic basis. The eco-restoration is estimated to cost ₹8.5 crore.
Officials said three funding options have been identified: Sustainable water security mission, Greater Chennai Corporation capital fund and Smart City fund. “The project will be implemented by dovetailing the three funding options. The final decision will be taken shortly,” said an official.
Of the 32 water bodies, major issues reported include pollution and encroachment. At least 19 of the 32 lakes do not have major civic issues. Work on such lakes is expected to begin shortly. The 19 lakes include Burma Nagar pond, Samiyarkulam, Pandakulam and Kumarappapuramkulam. The civic condition of 12 of the 32 waterbodies remains challenging owing to pollution, encroachments, dispute in ownership and other issues. The Chennai Corporation officials are likely to face opposition from various quarters once they begin the restoration in the 12 lakes. Such lakes include Teachers Colony Kulam, Idayankulam, Thathakuzhikulam, Basin lake-Surapattu, Athikulam, Vattamanikulam and Thamaraikulam.
According to corporation sources, the first phase of the work is restricted to Manali and Madhavaram as encroachments are fewer in the northern parts of the city. “Most of the lakes in the north have encroachments in at least 10% of the lake area. But the problem is severe in the southern parts of the city. Every waterbody has lost at least 40 to 50% of its area,” said an official.
For example, the eastern part of Velachery Lake, maintained by the Corporation and owned by the PWD, has lost most of its 15-acre area. “For the past few years, the civic body was clearing the debris, preventing encroachments. But now they have stopped maintaining the area. As a result, a few local politicians have grabbed the land, reducing the 15-acre lake area to just 4 acres. Most of the land has been lost and grabbing of land is underway. But the western part of the Velachery lake has been fenced,” said an official. Other PWD-owned lakes that have encroachments include Nesavalar Lake near Perungudi with at least 100 encroachments and Pallikaranai periya eri with around 150 encroachments.