While metropolitan cities in India can boast about their many infrastructural and technological advancements, and how real estate deals have never been better, there is one aspect that has not seen any development.
The circumstances have spiralled so badly out of control, that if we don’t act soon, the consequences will be severe and irreversible.
Freshwater bodies in most Indian cities, which once were our source of drinking water, have sadly become nothing less than stinking eyesores and one could go as far as to call them health hazards, thanks to indiscriminate trashing and the illegal discharge of toxic industrial effluents.
One of the major cities suffering from this crisis is Chennai.
Across the city, there are about 206 water bodies that have been relentlessly abused, and one can see mounting piles of garbage and effluents across these ponds and lakes.
In a bid to save these bodies, the Chennai Corporation has come up with a unique idea, inviting the local communities and corporates based in the city to adopt and take ownership of these water bodies for a specific time period!
“The corporates or the communities can adopt any of the 206 water bodies, develop and maintain them. They can own it for a specified time period. The residents will benefit from the initiative,” said an official to The Hindu.
However, the first phase of the cleanup drive would be shouldered by Chennai Corporation, under which municipal solid waste from all the 206 water bodies and any form of encroachments in areas surrounding these bodies will be removed.
Only after the completion of these tasks, would the permission for adoption and maintenance be entrusted to the local communities and corporates by the Corporation.
A portal to facilitate the process of adoption is already in the pipeline and will enable interested parties to sign up and pool in funds for the pertaining water body’s eco-restoration initiative. The handing over of the water bodies for adoption and maintenance will be in process once the Corporation’s Special Officer’s Council resolution is passed.
The idea to involve the public and corporates in this project had arisen following the financial constraints faced by the Corporation, which has been reportedly spending crores of rupees on eco-restoration of these water bodies earlier but to no avail.
The civic body kickstarted the project by clearing the solid waste from Oma Kulam in the Madhavaram zone, last year.
According to Zonal officers, about 12,000 tonnes of garbage and 6,000 tonnes of silt were removed from the pond, which had previously been the municipality dumping ground, following many complaints of extreme groundwater pollution from residents in neighbouring localities including Sarangapani Nagar, Thirumurugan Nagar, Gilburn Nagar, Omakulam Medu and Shanmuga Sundaram Nagar.
“The corporation has started clearing solid waste from Oma Kulam in Madhavaram zone using its own funds. We will develop walkways near the 3.66-acre pond. The water quality has improved. We have increased the depth of the pond to 8 feet. We will deepen it by another 6 feet. About 70 percent of the work has been completed. However, the project is very expensive,” said another official.
The Corporation authorities will undertake eco-restoration work for other ponds in tangent with the Oma Kulam project, following a study that would evaluate the extent of water quality deterioration and then remove solid waste from these water bodies. They also plan to develop bunds, walker lanes, high mast lamps, parks and children’s play areas across all the water bodies.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)