Can we look forward to clean lakes in Coimbatore?

If the Smart City initiative of restoring eight lakes is successful, it can transform the environment of Coimbatore. The clean up will start with Selvachinthamani, Periyakulam and Vaalankulam

Updated - October 16, 2017 10:51 pm IST

Published - October 16, 2017 04:02 pm IST

A clean-up job: Drop-by-drop

A clean-up job: Drop-by-drop

Historians have described Coimbatore as a beautiful woman adorned with a garland of navaratnams represented by the lakes of River Noyyal. The river begins its 167-km journey from Kooduthurai near Alandurai and joins the Cauvery near Karur, filling up over 30 tanks along the way.

Eight lakes of Noyyal that fall under the Coimbatore Corporation limits will now get a new lease of life. The Smart City Project will restore the lakes in a phased manner, under its Area Based Development Programme (ABDP).

Since Noyyal runs dry for a better part of the year, one of the main objectives of the project is to look at sources other than the monsoons to maintain the water level in the lakes. Right now Selvachintamani, Kumarasamy tank and Singanallur Lake are filled to the brim with water which is essentially sewage from the city. There is a Sewage Treatment Plant at Ukkadam that cleans up the drainage water and empties the water into the Noyyal stream

In Phase I, Selvachinthamani Lake, Periyakulam and Vaalankulam will be restored. Singanallur Lake will be taken up under Phase II. And, in Phase III, Narasampathy, Krishnampathy, Selvampathy and Kumarasamy Tank will be restored.

Selvachintamani tank

Location: Perur Road, Selvapuram

Area: 14.97 hectares

Spotted: Ducks, garganeys, and waders

 Selva Chinthamani Tank in Coimbatore

Selva Chinthamani Tank in Coimbatore

“Selvachintamani tank, sandwiched between Muthannankulam and Ukkadam big tank is a buffer zone,” says K. Mohnaraj of Save Coimbatore Wetlands. It’s the first and an important lake in Noyyal that falls under the Coimbatore Corporation. During the rains, the lake serves as a catchment area in Selvapuram. Surplus water from Muthannankulam also drains into Selvachintamani.

As the lake is surrounded by a residential colony, there are no farmlands. On the southern side, the lake joins the Perur Road. There is no fishing activity because of which it is rare to find birds like painted storks or pelicans here that feed on fish.

The water is highly polluted with sewage from neighbouring colonies. “As there are many goldsmiths working in the area, there is fear of contamination with mercury,” adds Mohanraj. There is no tree cover and that keeps roosting birds away. “Recently, a few youngsters cleaned up parts of the lake,” says P.R. Selvaraj of Coimabtore Nature Society. “Little egrets, purple swamp-hen, white-breasted waterhen, can be seen here. Rarely, the migratory sandpipers are also spotted. And, during the migratory season, you can see the barn swallows. Once treated water is let in, we can expect more birds,” he says.

Periyakulam or the Big Tank

Location: Ukkadam

Area: 129.20 hectares

Spotted: Spot-billed pelicans, Oriental darter, White ibis, Blue-tailed godwit, Wood sandpiper, Pied wagtail

Common sandpipers, the migratory birds have visited the last two winters, says Selvaraj. Other birds are stints, painted storks, pin-tailed ducks, Garganeys and Northern shovellers. “We also spotted the little-ringed plover.” Always brimming with water the big tank used to be the city’s pride. Not any more. Other than the Rajavaikaal, the main Noyyal stream, there are many other inlets to the lake that drain sewage into it. A few years ago, the Coimbatore Corporation, district administration, Siruthuli, Residents Awareness Association, and the Vijayalakshmi Charitable Trust joined hands for a de-silting initiative. On the eastern side of the bund, a footpath was constructed, but the pollution continues. About 150 families of fishermen depend on the lake for a livelihood. The tank is a bio-diversity hotspot as bird species, more than 100, have been spotted and recorded on e-bird portal. Recently, Falcons and Osprey were sighted. “The bund vegetation, including shrubs and small plants, were removed during the de-silting. This affected the migratory birds that are dependant on shore vegetation,” says Mohanraj.

A sewage treatment plant is mandatory to check the pollution. A ste-by-step restoration that takes into account the ecology should be in place. “During the de-silting, the top soil and greenery on the bund were lost.Also, micro-nutrients and microbes. Effort should be taken to bring the green cover back,” he adds.


Location: Sungam bypass

Area: 64.75 hectares

Spotted: Sandpipers, egrets, painted storks

Valankulam lake

Valankulam lake

Encroachments are the problem here. “There are encroachments by the EB department, the PWD and there is also a bus depot in the vicinity near Sungam. The effluents from the depot, the waste water from cleaning the buses enters the lake,” says Mohanraj. The residential colonies on the north-west side of the bund also let in sewage. Waste management is key to stop the effluents. “The inlet channel to Valankulam from big tank is not properly maintained. And there are so many other pipes from adjacent colonies that carry sewage to the lake.” The main danger here is that all the outlets are blocked with solid waste, rues Mohanraj. “There are about five outlets but nothing is under operation. In case of heavy rains, there is a danger of the Sungam to Ukkadam stretch begin flooded. A few years ago, during the rains, several huts were washed away. Though the hutments are cleared now, there is no outlet for the water to drain out.” There is no farming, but the tree cover attracts migratory birds. And, a swamp there attracts nesting birds. The lake has resident birds like grebes and swamp hens. The sandpipers, painted storks, grey herons, little egrets, can be seen in good numbers. Says Selvaraj, “Last year, we noticed an early migration of birds. Some of the birds like purple swamphen and jacana have adapted to the dry conditions. If the debris is cleared, it will prove to be a haven for the birds.”

Project Plans

De-silting work without disturbing the ecology

Lake-front development with non-motorised tracks for cycling and walking

Protecting fishing communities and farmers

Strengthening the bunds

Setting up a cycling track linking the eight lakes

Introducing recreation water sports activities

Installing Sewage treatment plants

First off the mark

Pedestrian track at Selvachintamani and Ukkadam tank

Walker’s plaza at Vaalankulam

Non-motorable track to connect Sungam junction with Singanallur Lake

Bird watching tower in Singanallur

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