Lakes of Coimbatore come alive after the monsoons

The lakes are brimming and the birds have returned to roost. Despite a good South West Monsoon, is everything really okay?

Published - June 20, 2018 03:51 pm IST

Recently, a documentary Noyyalai Nokki , captured how the river, the lifeline of Coimbatore has been reduced to a drain. In the beginning, as the river flowed along, it filled up as many as 30 tanks in the city that replenished groundwater, supported biodiversity, and carried forward the surplus water without flooding the villages. As the city grew, some of the lakes vanished from the landscape. Of the remaining, most are choked with plastics and industrial wastes. But there is still hope, even more so with the arrival of the South West Monsoon. Over seven lakes in the city have filled up and in a few more weeks, most of the others may just reach their full capacity.

Vellalore Lake

Area : over 90 acres

At one time, the Vellalore Lake was home to Rosy Starlings, the winter migratory bird. They flocked here in great numbers to roost. “It was an unforgettable sight,” says K. Mohanraj of Save Your Wetlands. “They fed on worms and insects at the neighbouring Vellalore dump yard. Apart from the Starlings there were also Cormorants that used the many trees around the lake as their nesting ground.And ducks paddled in the waters.” Sadly, that changed and what was once a hub of migratory birds, ran dry and became a dumping ground for garbage and debris. This blocked the inlet channels that fed the lake with water from the Noyyal. But there is optimism in the air as after a gap of over 15 years, the lake is beginning to fill up during the monsoons. City corporation, the public works department and NGOs, de-silted the Rajavaaikaal channel that connects the lake with the Noyyal and removed encroachments. R. Manikandan of the NGO Kovai Kulangal Paadukaappu Amaipu says, “All the inlet channels were blocked with sludge. Many volunteers worked hard for over three weeks to clear the debris. And, the result is showing. We hope the lake fills with another round of rains.”

Perur Lake

Area: Over 200 acres

A few years ago, a flock of Whiskered Terns, took a group of birders by surprise. Because these birds are an indicator of unpolluted water with plenty of fish. As the water level is just right for the shorebirds, the lake also attracted Spotted Stints, Wooden Sandpipers, Commom Green Shanks, and Plovers in large numbers. The monsoons have done their job and the lake, located a little away from the Puttuvikki bridge, is now partially filled up. “It’s a hotspot of birds and birders want the lake to be converted into a bird sanctuary,”says K. Mohanraj. A number of fishing communities use the lake on lease for fishing. They ensure that there is no excess water by filling up with debris and sludge, which is not a good thing. Another potential threat comes from illegal sand mining along the course of the river near Perur and Alandurai. Recently, hundreds of volunteers cleaned the lake and its surroundings of plastic wastes. They cleaned up the locality, and also cleared the canals that fill up the lakes. “About one fifth of the lake’s capacity is filled up now, which is a good sign,” he says.

Singanallur Lake

Area : over 200 acres

One of the biggest and significant tanks in the city fed by the Noyyal, Singanallur supports a thriving bio-diversity of resident birds, migratory birds, butterflies and rich flora. Some rare birds such as the Red- necked Phalarope and the Pallas Gull have been spotted here. The lake is also home to painted storks, sandpipers, purple moorhen, Asian palm swifts, and barn swallows. Singanallur is brimming with water now. But all is not well says Mohanraj. “The quality of water is poor as the rain water brings with it plastic waste and sewage. We have to put filter gates at the inlet point to control pollution ,”he says. A sewage treatment plant is mandatory.

Kurichi Lake

Area : over 300 acres

The arrival of a flock of the Greater Flamingos in Kurichi Lake created a buzz in the birding community a couple of years ago. “ We saw flamingos at close range. It’s a rare sighting as the flamingos that breed in the Kutch in Gujarat often migrate to the coastal region during winters. Traditionally, Kurichi Lake is a haven for migratory birds such as Sandpipers, Northern Pintails, Yellow Wagtails, and Northern Shovellers,”says P.R. Selvaraj of Coimbatore Nature Society. The lake is filling up this monsoon, but it is the familiar hurdle of clearing constantly dumped debris around it. Otherwise the birds will not come to roost. Inlet channels from the Noyyal have to be de-clogged to allow the excess rain water and not sewage to flow in.

Other lakes

There has been good inflow in interconnected lakes like Muthannan Kulam, Krishnampathy, Selvampathy and Narasampathy

Though the first three lakes are always full, this year Narasampathy has also filled up partially. Kingfishers, pelicans, ducks, and waders can always be seen here in large numbers


Ground water recharge

Water security for at least one year for the communities in and around the lake


Plastic wastes choke the canals that carry excess water to the lakes

Waste from low lying areas get washed into the lakes during the rains

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