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Residents of Chennai's Urapakkam brave death threats, turn cesspool into lake

300-odd volunteers pool in close to Rs 20 lakh to revive a portion of the Karanai Puducherry lake which was a cesspool of sewage and garbage.

Residents of Chennai's Urapakkam brave death threats, turn cesspool into lake
Determined residents had to face several struggles before succeeding in restoring the Karanai Puducherry lake in Urapakkam. (Photo| EPS)

CHENNAI: Due to sustained efforts of the locals, Karanai Puducherry lake in Urapakkam now resembles a waterbody. A few years ago it was a cesspool of sewage and garbage, because of which the groundwater is still contaminated.

Fed up of the contamination, close to 300 volunteers, mostly locals, with financial help from a few organisations, pooled in close to Rs 20 lakh to revive part of the lake. Though they were able to increase the height of the bund and desilt 30 per cent the lake, government intervention is pertinent to fully restore the waterbody, claim residents.

The act of reviving the lake which spreads over 40 acres was not an easy task. Apart from constant dumping of waste, the release of sewage allegedly from nearby houses proves to be a big problem. The volunteers are unable to put an end to it without help from the local authorities.

“Before we started, water in our borewells used to be dark brown and even black. That is when we realised the extent to which the lake was contaminated. Because of recent rains, groundwater quality has slightly improved but it still reeks of sewage,” said K Karthick, a resident, who has been part of the clean-up drive from day one. He claims the going has not been easy.

Karthick recounted how he got death threats from earthmover and lorry drivers as they demanded to be employed instead of private players to desilt the lake. “Apart from this, we had to deal with many persons who wanted to slow down the process. Some even accused us of illegally selling the desilted soil. Our families were worried for our safety,” he added.

Phase one restoration started after securing permission from authorities in April 2019 and was wrapped up in August. But as authorities from Kancheepuram district are yet to give permission for the second phase, desilting of the remaining part has not begun.

To put an end to garbage dumping, there is a plan to start a waste management centre through which vegetable waste can be turned into manure, which can be sold. “We are planning to get `10 lakh under one of the entrepreneur development schemes of the state government. There are around 15,000 houses here which generate close to 45,000 kg of solid waste. This centre will generate revenue to maintain the lake and curb the menace too,” said Dhanuvelraj M, a member of the Tamil Nadu Water Management High Committee, formed by the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.

Plan ahead
Phase one restoration started after securing permission from authorities in April 2019 and was wrapped up in August. But as authorities from Kancheepuram district are yet to give permission for the second phase, desilting of the remaining part has not begun.


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