During the December deluge, Narayanapuram was the first waterbody to breach in the wetland. The wetland, located in south Chennai was the first to breach during the 2015 floods since it receives surplus water from three channels viz the Pallavaram – Keelkattalai cascade, the Madipakkam-Puzhuthivakkam cascade, and a part of the Pallikaranai Lake system.
During 2016-2017, restoration and conservation of Narayanapuram wetland was taken up by Care Earth Trust with funding support from VA Tech WABAG, as part of their CSR mandate. Extensive support was provided by the Public Works Department and Chennai Corporation.
Spread over 65 hectares, the wetland had already lost 10 acres due to encroachment by roads, buildings, temporary bunding etc. It was also badly silted, and overrun by water hyacinth due to the high organic load. “It’s a pity that people in urban areas have complete disdain for freshwater bodies and fail to take proper care of them,” said G Dass, a practising farmer and part of the Care Earth trust team working on the Narayanapuram restoration.
A basic plan for restoration was drafted after scientific assessments of the wetland and its periphery which included contour mapping, water quality testing and ecological characterization, said Vasanth, the restoration team leader. “Going by the results, and discussion among all stakeholders, we decided our action plan,” he said. “This included desilting in tune with the contour of the wetland bed, dredging in pockets, creation of bunds based on hydrological flows, removal of debris and waste from within and the periphery of the wetland, removal of the water hyacinth and the terrestrial invasive species of plants,” he said.
They decided on fencing, providing lighting and seating arrangements in pockets. Local communities were coopted in the restoration work, and non intrusive methods such as physical removal of invasive species using nets and catamarans were used extensively. “Over 115 species of plants, herbs and trees ranging from greens to shrubs like and trees like Theanpoosani were found within the periphery of the wetland, once restoration was completed,” said Dass.