In 40 years, TN has lost thousands of water bodies to buildings: Study

In a startling revelation, a study conducted by former engineers of the Tamil Nadu Public Works Department (Water Resources) shows that lakes and ponds in the state have come down by thousands.
Fact File
Fact File

Chennai

According to official PWD figures, there were no less than 39,202 lakes and ponds in the state 40 years ago. Out of this, a total of 18,789 lakes come under the control of PWD and the remaining are under panchayat unions. However, due to a combination of factors like encroachment, lack of maintenance of the water bodies and unplanned development, many of these lakes have been turned to agricultural lands and flats. 
“Four decades ago, the full capacity of water across state’s lakes was 390 tmc, but gradually, the levels have been going down to present levels of 250 tmc. This is an ominous signal that the state could face water scarcity,” the study said. Further, during the monsoon deluge of 2015, over 25 tmc of water is believed to have flown into the sea, forcing officials to refrain from taking up desilting work in lakes such as the Poondi reservoir, Veeranam, Chembarambakkam and Madhuranthakam lakes. 
A large number of channels connecting lakes have not been maintained properly, obstructing free flow of water. The study also revealed that the receding lakes and ponds were converted into schools, colleges, hospitals, bus terminals. “Lakes/ponds coming under panchayat unions are largely encroached upon and influential people have converted lake beds into layouts,” it said. 
A Veerappan, former special Chief Engineer and state Secretary, Tamil Nadu PWD Senior Engineers Association, who was associated with the survey told DTNext , “The PWD and concerned District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) officials have huge a responsibility in protecting and maintaining water-bodies. 
However, fund allocation for water-bodies has been very low in recent years,”.  In the current scenario, if the water-bodies are left unattended, it would result in depletion of ground water and water table, he added. The study also suggested that Karuvelam trees (prosopis juliflora) in the water bodies should be uprooted and blockage in link channels should be cleared by desilting. 
“Big lakes like Chembarambakkam, Poondi reservoir and Red Hills should be deepened from 500 mm to 1000 mm so thereby enhancing the storage capacity, thereby paving the way for direct irrigation through sill level. The survey also noted that all the stakeholders should follow in the footsteps of ancient rulers who were serious about maintenance of water bodies. “But we fail to follow suit. However, a considerable number of age-old lakes like Chembarambakkam, Uthiramerur, Perumal and Ramanathapuram lakes are being well maintained,” the engineers in the survey mentioned.

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