The residents volunteered themselves to restore the waterbodies after the government did little to stop flooding during the northeast monsoon. So, they secured permission from the Public Works Department (PWD) to revive the waterbodies in 2019. But the PWD allotted them just a months’ time to finish the work.
“The Rajakilpakkam and Vengaivasal lakes were dry two years ago. The PWD officials inspected the lakes quite often but didn’t take any steps to restore them. So, we decided to take up the work and sought permission from the department concerned. We collected funds from the residents, desilted, removed vegetation and garbage from near the waterbody and finished the work in the said time,” said M Seetharaman, general secretary, Rajakilpakkam Residents Welfare Association.
In the monsoon, the groundwater level rose and the water was clean. The residents could use it for drinking and domestic chores. “But after a few months, we noticed untreated sewage in the lakes. Now, the entire locality stinks and struggles to get adequate water. We raised multiple complaints with the PWD but the officials are yet to take any action,” said Seetharaman.
The same residents’ association volunteered to restore the Medavakkam lake, too, along with the Rajini Rasigar Sangam. They were able to complete the restoration work in less than a month. “Earlier, the lake was only 20 feet wide. After revival, it is now 100 feet wide and received enough water after the 2019 monsoon. Later, we noticed sewage in the lake, like in the other two lakes. There was water hyacinth all over,” said Krishnakumar L, a resident of Vengaivasal.
Garbage dumping continues to be an issue even after desilting. The residents said they had registered complaints with the CM’s cell, PWD officials and local bodies concerned.
“We still find people dumping garbage in the lakes. We have even seen private lorries dumping waste in the lake. Successive governments have failed to take action against this,” said Praveen, an environmental activist.
A senior PWD official told DT Next that they had informed the local bodies concerned about sewage inflow. “We have done the restoration work on the water bodies and the Metro Water is in charge of setting up sewage treatment plants. They are yet to start work. Also, we have asked the local bodies to ensure that untreated sewage does not enter the lakes,” said the official.