Chennai: Desilting of Chitlappakkam lake resumes after minor hiccups

Shivani Ramakrishnan
Volunteers from Chitlapakkam Rising have been desilting the Chitlapakkam Lake from June 2, 2019. Express Photo: Shivani Ramakrishnan

With the construction of a new and strong bund, the desilting of the Chitlappakkam lake near Chennai, which had hit a speed breaker two weeks ago due to breakage of the lake bund, has commenced at full speed once again.

Two weeks ago, the bund along the western side of the lake had been broken by unknown persons. To the west of the bund is a canal, which we have been asking the panchayat to maintain properly since any waste that is thrown into the canal results in stagnation of water. However, the water eventually became stagnant and local residents probably thought that removing the bund would help, said Govindaraj K, a volunteer from Chitlapakkam Rising.

Once the damage done to the bund came to light, the PWD reconstructed it and increased its depth to 30 feet on the western side of the lake. This is a temporary solution. The PWD will come up with something more permanent soon, said Govindaraj.

READ | Chennai s Chitlapakkam lake revival model holds key to fight water crisis

Chitlapakkam Rising, formed in 2014, is a 5000-strong volunteer group that works on civic programmes such as cleaning up of roads and lakes, Right to Information (RTI) queries and monitors government projects. With a core team of 25 people, the group operates chiefly through Facebook and has been actively involved in desilting and restoring the 55-acre lake since June 2 this year.

Both the young and the old have been joining hands to desilt the lake. Express Photo: Shivani Ramakrishnan

With local residents and students from various schools and colleges joining hands to revive the lake, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had announced a fund of Rs 25 crore for its restoration. However, Chitlpakkam Rising said that they are yet to receive details regarding the break-up of the funds.

Besides restoring the lake, the volunteers are planning to set up an island in the middle of the lake, to serve as a sanctuary for the various birds that visit the lake. We suggested creating transparency regarding the funds but there has been no information so far. However, the contractors are doing the work and listening to our suggestions. We suggested creating an island in the middle of the lake and the contractors have promised us that they will do it, said Govindaraj.

Govindaraj added that the team had visited Otteri in Tiruvallur district on Sunday, where they had been presented with over 700 saplings to be planted along the lake once it had been completely desilted.

Residents from Chitlapakkam and Chennai have been actively taking part in cleaning the lake and restoring it to its former glory. Express Photo: Shivani Ramakrishnan

Most of the work on the lake is done manually by residents who remove debris in the form of plastic, glass items and clothes from the lake, following which machines are used to desilt the section of the lake that has been cleaned. The plastic waste that is removed from the lake is sent to Paterson Energy Private Limited at Sriperumbudur for recycling , said Govindaraj. He added that the volunteer organisation had also requested the town panchayat to begin segregating the waste generated from their households and avoid dumping waste into the lake.

While he is happy with the progress that they have made, Govindaraj said that the work is slow and doubted that they would be able to finish desilting the lake before the September 15 deadline. With around 50 per cent of the restoration work done, the volunteer hopes that they will be able to complete the work before the onset of the monsoon.