Chennai: With four major reservoirs supplying Chennai city’s daily drinking water, all dried up causing an unprecedented water scarcity in the city, just one lake in Avadi in the northern part of the city, is filled with water.
An experiment that ended successfully, the 85-acre Paruthapattu Lake, which was encroached on and ridden with sewage till last year, now sports a brand new look. It has been thoroughly cleaned, desilted and rejuvenated as a bio park. The Rs 28 crore project the relocation of approximately 500 people and has converted the lake into a 12-feet deep lake with a three-kilometre-long bund that also serves as a walking track.
In addition to that , a Rs 35 crore sewage treatment plant built on the lake's shore will treat sewage from the Avadi municipality and pump one crore litres of recycled water into the lake from next week. The project will also sell an equal amount of water for industrial use.
The brain behind the project is Avadi legislator K Pandiarajan, popularly called Ma Foi Pandiarajan, who is also the Tamil Nadu Culture Minister.
"It's an example of restoration of water bodies. Avadi is like a lake district with fifteen such lakes. We would restore all of these and link them all the way they were earlier," he told NDTV.
Right now, the Avadi lake is unfit for human consumption and hence cannot help the water crisis in Chennai immediately, according to Pandiarajan.
"I think we need to have a little higher quality for making it consumption worthy from drinking point of view. First we are trying to use some non-traditional methods like Vetriver floats (almost similar to what was used on the Ganges) and oxygen infusion," he explained, adding, "We would try to look at all those aspects and see whatever is viable to draw water from here."
Authorities have blamed the lake's condition on inadequate monsoons, high temperatures and excessive extraction.
However, experts in the field say last year's failed monsoon, shoddy desilting due to corruption and large-scale concretisation, and indiscriminate sinking of bore wells have reduced the re-charging of ground water and resulted in the groundwater table depleting so fast.
Arun Krishnamurthy, the founder of Environmentalist Foundation of India, an organisation that has restored many lakes, believes it is time for the state government to revive rain water harvesting progammes that were mandatory in the early 2000s. Many believe rain water harvesting is not being strictly enforced now.
"All of us cannot keep ploughing the ground below through bore wells. The bore well system need to be closed. There should be a metering system for the amount of water we use. Water recycling and reuse should be heavily promoted," he told NDTV.
A report by the EU drought observatory warns "more than a hundred million people are currently affected by drought" and says Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are at "high risk" because of "substantial lack of rain".
The same report also states that the "severe deficiency" in water supply that has affected Maharashtra and Karnataka "requires more than a good monsoon". However, the report continues, over the past four years, those two states have received less than half of expected average rainfall.
Although the Avadi lake cannot solve the Chennai water crisis on its own, if everything goes well, it could quench the city's thirst to some extent.