Lack of rains last year and the high rate of evaporation are the main reasons,” said TJ Ramani, president of the Srinivasa Youngmen’s Association, (SYMA) a social welfare organisation in Triplicane.
In fact, in September 2016, the association, with the help of Councilor B Srinivasan and Mayor Saidai Duraisamy left no stone unturned, to clear the storm water drain (SWD) channels that led to the tank. “We realised that there were blocks in the SWDs, as the tank did not fill to the brim (as it usually does), despite heavy rains in 2015. We turned to the civic authorities for help. But the monsoon failed in 2016, and it turned out to be an exercise in futility,” said Ramani.
SYMA was responsible for unearthing, improving and breathing life into an age-old (7th C) rainwater harvesting structure of the temple. In 1986, the late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran ordered for the tank to be
restored when he saw its desolate condition. But the civic body merely cleaned the tank and placed concrete slabs on the floor of the tank. But the tank turned bone dry soon. It was then that SYMA offered its services to improve the water level in the tank.
As a first step, they revived the nearly 200-year-old old rain water harvesting system of the temple.
They came upon this old, defunct system, when they dug a stretch of South Mada Street. In all, they found three channels in the streets around the temple. All were were found to connect to a single point near the tank.
The association then built chambers in the TP Koil Street behind the temple and laid pipes to direct the rainwater from the surrounding streets into the tank. Rainwater pits were laid every 15-20 feet below the roads. With the help of HR & CE and Chennai Corporation, channels were built to drain the rainwater near Ice House into the tank. Channels were built along all the Mada Streets and the flow of water in them was directed to the tank again.
“This not only improved the water table around the Mada Streets, but also reduced the salinity,” said the residents,
cheerfully. SYMA also created a garden around the tank. But this decade of yeomen service has gone down the drain when in 2012, the organsation protested against the HR &CE’s initiative of relaying the coarse stone flooring in the prakaram and pradak shina area with granite stones.
Devotees were angered by this, as the polished stones generate heat, unlike their coarse counterpart which is a natural absorber of heat and also provides acupressure effect to the feet. After this move, maintenance of the tank was taken over by the temple authorities.
“Have they taken enough effort to improve the waterbody? Has it been desilted recently to improve percolation? Will we ever see the garden in full bloom again?” These are the questions that residents ask, when they see the shoddy maintenance of the tank.
When contacted, temple authorities said more than maintenance, the scorching heat was turning the tank dry. “We will soon take efforts to improve the waterbody,” they added.
“Temple tanks are recharge ponds. If given a chance to improve it we will take it up on a war footing as it would help recharge the ground water level in Triplicane,” assures Ramani.