Environment

Take a safari around Puducherry’s lakes

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Environmentalist Foundation of India invites you to cycle around the town’s water bodies and educate yourself

No civilisation can survive without water. And yet, water bodies are often the most-ignored aspect of urban planning, warning signs ignored right until crisis hits. Puducherry fares better than most; its drainage system is a matter of pride for the region. Now, citizens have a chance to educate themselves about the erstwhile French colony and the three lakes within its confines, as well as a pond that was once equally significant, if not more.

Reflections of the past

“Aayi is a historical pond,” says Madhankumar, environmental engineer and Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) coordinator for Puducherry. “There was a time when it was Puducherry’s only source of drinking water. Today, there’s hardly any water to be seen; the pond has been encroached upon completely.”

Take a safari around Puducherry’s lakes

Aayi pond, Velrampet lake, Kanagan Lake and Ossudu lake are the four points of focus for EFI’s upcoming lake safari. Aimed at helping the people of Puducherry know their environment better, the lake safari is a bit different: you’d be on a cycle, not a boat.

The tour begins with Velrampet lake, and makes participants cycle a broad route that touches upon the other water bodies, stopping for a while at each. The importance of each of them — and the role they play in the ecology — will be dwelled upon.

“Kanagan and Velrampet are the main lakes in town today,” says Madhankumar, “Both have been restored and are now eco-tourism spots.” The restoration that he is talking about is a fairly recent phenomenon, with the Government having woken up to its degradation and spearheading plans with Central support in 2016.

Winged friends

Take a safari around Puducherry’s lakes

The lakes’ contribution to the region’s ecology is significant, he says. Velrampet lake, especially, is a major source of groundwater, even for certain neighbourhoods in Chennai. Even in its not-so-glorious days, the lake, spread over 100 hectares, used to be a rich site for bird sightings, with as many as 60 different species being spotted over time.

“Once a sprawling lake with different species of birds and freshwater home to several aquatic life forms and serves water for irrigation purpose. But sadly today, urbanisation is taking a toll on this lake. For the past ten years, a huge amount of garbage has been dumped in and around the lakes, posing threats to the ecological diversity. Currently, after cleanups and other activities, birds are being attracted to this lake from Ousteri (Ossudu) lake.”

The star of the show, however, is Ossudu. “EFI has been working to renew this water body, and now it has been restored completely,” informs Madhankumar. The lake, he says, is a hotspot for both local and migratory birds. “You can see plenty of pelicans and spoonbills, as well as grey grauns that fly in from Sri Lanka,” he says, rattling of a further list of names connected with the first lake sanctuary of Puducherry: purple moorhen, great egret, grey heron, painted stork...Bird sightings, though are just a part of the ‘appeal’.

Cyclakes kicks off on Sunday, April 22, at 6.30 am. For more details, call 8778347408.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 6:25:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/tour-pondicherrys-lakes-with-efis-safari/article23604106.ece

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