Resistants join hands; removes tonnes of plastics from Porur Lake

It’s no joke that the whole of Chennai is suffering from water scarcity and the lakes have dried up. We have nobody but ourselves to blame. Maybe, it is the right time to act and people are rightly doing so.

A few months back, there was a cleanup in the Nanganallur Pond, an event that united 100s of residents. Now, it’s the turn of Porur residents to take up the responsibility rather than waiting for the Government. Recently, a group of people who goes by the name “Aatrupadai”, cleaned up the Porur Lake, which is one of the main water supplies for the city.

Joining Anjali Raga Jammy in the conversation is Mr Karthikeyan from the team who was patient enough to answer our question regarding the cleanup.

How did everything start? Take us through!

One of our teammates was hearing FM. An old lady (by guessing the voice, she could be 70+), said she is so willing to get into the lake to do the cleaning and was requesting for few youngsters to join her.

It was irking. Went on tears for a sec. ‘Why not we’ was the next question among the two of us. Now we 600+ active volunteers within the lake premise every weekend mornings. Every Long journey starts with the First firm step.! isn’t it?

Did you think that so many people would turn up?

Yes, they will, Coz, of the panicking, dreadful, dry, rainless, waterless 193 days. If not now, then it shows that we are in endless hibernation.

The support from the officials

Approvals took about 45 days. As we were initially unaware of the hierarchy, role clarity, ownership etc. The Greater Chennai Corporation was way down to support us in removing the collected bags. Also, they have conducted a day awareness session on day 4. But is that enough? What is Preventive action? we are yet to identify.

What are all the things you removed from the places other than plastics

I had posted a detailed video on this. Very few are curious to know about this.

1) All variety of plastics, right from Gutkha packets till cell phones.
2) Idols, that we do pooja at home (guess where the Vinayak Chavithi idols were dissolving?).
3) Many threw the Calendars (of God printed), Photos (of god), broken god statues.
4) Porcelain utensils.
5) TASMAC empty bottles (About 20% of the load was this).
6) Sarees, blouses in hell numbers.
7) Tyres, Tubes, Big Garbage Plastic bags.
8) Used food packs (thrown by our gentleman while passing by that by-pass road.
9) Thermocol sheets in abundance (maybe to stop evaporation?)
10) Fruit board, marketing sheets (in hell number).
11) To our surprise, Medi wastes in Right (Westside) front and rear waste pits.
12) What else, Municipality waste dumps for about 200 metres in the rear side.

The involvement of the public during the cleanup

We started with two. And on day 1, we had 40 pair of hands. Day 2 it was about 150. Day three it was 300. Day 4 it was 1000 plus. Way to go.! Expecting more to join in the upcoming days, Schools, colleges, peer organizations and so on. Beyond just removing. This gives a lot of learning for us. Learning how we spoil the resources of tomorrow. Learning that we are gonna leave our kids in a mess.

The importance of the maintenance from now on

1) There are about 680 water reservoirs around Chennai, most of them are in critical conditions, as we talk to people around.

2) And Desilting is one Himalayan task to carry out. For example, After December Floods (Dec-2015), Govt has taken initiatives for Desilting Chembarambakkam. 2016 tenders have been rolled out. We are yet to complete the activities. Out of 365 days in a year, waterless, rainless dry span is only about 150 days. And System-related delays, Execution delays and the massive area of the lake, plays vital roles in these lack of perfection.

3) Solid Waste management is one big threat. Especially Non-degradable wastes. As I understood from govt bodies, they have systems in place yet no innovative/workable solutions to put a full stop to this evil. Guess what, the per day average of Solid wastes that we receive in Perungudi is 5000 tonnes. Rest is for your imagination.

And to your question, This is the critical junction we need to take serious measures. Govt need to Implement the Laws studiously. (there is one law in rolled out in 2007 on encroachments, which is lacking implementation. right now there are 151 encroachments in the water bodies around Chennai). We as people need to aware a lot about Solid Waste management and support Corporation rather than just blaming.

Your future plans.

Here is an attachment.

What else for the future, dig all the water bodies and help them restoring. Remember, its always better Human restores nature than Nature itself takes measures. We have much experience in recent days of how Nature purifies herself. isn’t it?

You can contact Mr Karthikeyan here.