The duo is a member of Ilanthamizhar Chennai team which is part of Ulagalaviya Ilanthamizhar Kuzhu guided by Siva Balasubramani. Along with another member, Rakshitha RB, a Class 9 student at ABS School, Thiruvallur, and four college students, they started a project called Lost Rivers and Lakes of Madras where they map lost lakes in the city. “The project was started six months ago. With the help of Google Earth, Google Time Lapse and ISRO’s Geoportal - Bhuvan we are identifying the lost lakes and mapping them. ISRO’s Bhuvan is a national Geoportal in which we can see maps of India from many decades ago. We collect information and data from libraries like Connemara Public Library, Madras Literary Society (MLS), PWD office, old British era books on Madras and present books of S Muthiah and KRA Narasaiah. So far, we have mapped 97 lakes of which 32 have completely vanished. We will be updating the map as and when we collect more data. During the British rule, there was a river called Elumbur River – to build Fort St George they had blocked this river and redirected it to Buckingham Canal. We have identified that,” says Nandhabalan.
By identifying and marking the lost water bodies at their current location, the project helps in getting an idea about the land, whether it was an aeri (lake) or high ground during that period. “We can locate the water pathways of the disappeared rivers and lakes or construct flood tunnels which will help in retrieving the path of lost lakes. This also helps in solving water mismanagement which in turn clears up the infamous Chennai water crisis.”
Ulagalaviya Ilanthamizhar Kuzhu was formed by ocean researcher Siva Balasubramani (Orissa Balu) to unite young Tamils from across the globe. “There are 150 members from 29 countries in that group. Members below 18 years are functioning with parental guidance. The group was formed during the pandemic and we operate through WhatsApp. Ilanthamizhar Chennai team is part of this group and we formed it last November. Apart from the three of us, the members in the group are B Tamil Selvi, E Sivakarthikayan, R Manohar, G Haritha and Sri Meenakshi JS. They help us technically and in collecting the resources needed for research and mapping,” he concludes.