Chennai: Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink – Times of India

Chennai News
CHENNAI: About 78% of water bodies maintained by the public works department in Chennai and its three neighbouring districts have reached full storage capacity, but not a drop of surface water in most lakes and ponds on the city’s fringes is potable. Most such facilities within 50km of the city have turned into sewage drains and dump yards.
A TOI visit to various water bodies in the suburbs has shown them up as classical examples of hotspots of encroachments.

Nemilichery Lake
The huge lake at Vandalur along Outer Ring Road in Chengalpet district, now brimming with water, lies next to a dump yard filled with solid waste. Parts of the massive Thandarai lake at Pattabiram are covered with vegetation and a lake on CTH Road at Nemmilicherry in Tiruvallur district is filled with sewage. Water in Kolavai lake in Chengalpet town, with storage of capacity of 0.5 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) can now be used only for industrial purposes. Several water bodies in Greater Chennai Corporation’s extended areas are similarly affected.

About 50% of the 1,551 PWD-maintained water bodies in Chennai, Chengalpet, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur are on the fringes of the city and have a storage capacity of at least 12 tmcft, Chennai’s annual water demand. About 3,000 ponds under local bodies and rural development department in the three districts have at least 5tmcft. Water bodies in TN’s northern parts date back more than 1,500 years, thanks to the initiatives of the Pallavas and the Cholas.

These water bodies, if well maintained, could have been lifesavers during the terrible summer of 2019. N Leo of Vinayagapuram near Retteri said entry to the lake in the area had become a dump yard and sewage was being let in. “In fact, Retteri was a blessing in disguise in 2019. One year later, encroachments around the water body are discharging sewage and garbage is polluting the lake,” he said.
Experts say urban water bodies are contaminated with bacteriological impurities due to discharge of sewage and polluted with heavy metals due to industrial waste. Hydrogeologist J Saravanan said stopping sewage from entering water bodies is needed. “We must protect these tanks like safeguarding forest land, for which we require strong laws,” he said. Chennai should have an exclusive water management body like the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority, he said.
Chengalpet collector A John Louis told TOI a project to rejuvenate Kolavai lake was sanctioned two days ago. “We will take similar measures to conserve water bodies in urban pockets between Pallavaram and Chengalpet,” he said. Water bodies in Pallavaram, Tiruporur and Chengalpet together have a storage capacity of more than 4tmcft, he added.
PWD secretary K Manivasan said steps would be taken to explore possibilities of making water in tanks around Chennai potable.