Now, every time he passes by a pond on Avadi – Poonamallee Main Road, 68-year-old K. Maruthu finds himself doused in the light of “other days”. His memories of school days are centred around the pond. After day, after school hours, he and his friends would head to the pond. With makeshift fishing rods fashioned with short and think branches from a neem tree standing nearby, they would fish in the pond. After fishing, they would hide this “fishing tool” behind the tree, and head home.
A few months ago, this pond was desilted and deepened by the Avadi Corporation (which was upgraded from municipality to Corporation recently), and since then, Maruthu, a marginal farmer in Paruthipattu village near Avadi, has been deluged with memories of the after-school activity. The pond is said to be one of a dozen small waterbodies that had been desilted and deepened in recent times.
“Lack of inlets to discharge rainwater into the pond had left it dry for many years. Revival of the pond is a welcome measure,” says Maruthu, who grows paddy, vegetables, groundnut and green on his agricultural land.
Spread over one acre, the pond was the main source of water for residents of the neighbourhood, before water pipes with public hand pumps were introduced three decades ago.
The pond would help recharge the water table in the neighbourhood, thereby enabling individual wells to retain water almost throughout the year. Due to the lack of a stormwater drain network for many years, much of the rainwater flowed to nearby the Paruthipattu lake and Cooum river.
With the introduction of hand pump sets at street corners, residents were not keen on drawing water from the pond anymore, and this dealt a death blow to its health. Slowly, miscreants started discharging sullage into the pond, which forced to it completely.
With wells going dry, and proliferation of borewells in the neighbourhood for the past few years, residents started hoping that the pond would be revived by the Avadi Corporation.
Subsequently, the Corporation allotted adequate funds and manpower to desilt and deepen the waterbody. Significantly, the flow of sullage into the pond has been arrested. The existing stormwater drain network in the neighbourhood was cleaned and connected to the pond on all its four sides with a raised bund.
Due to heavy rains for the past few weeks, the pond got filled up quickly, reviving old memories for many long-time residents like Maruthu.
Miles away, the decades-old Periya Kulam on Dairy Milk Road in Pattaravakkam has got a new lease on life, thanks to efforts taken by civic officials of Zone — 7 (Ambattur) of Greater Chennai Corporation and residents since 2018.
The pond is surrounded by densely-populated areas, including an industrial zone. With no underground drainage connection being provided for many decades, the pond was used as a sewage pit.
With the Zone 7 officials and residents-volunteers, some of them part of the Ambattur Waterbodies Protection Movement, forming a team, the revival of the pond was kickstarted in August 2018. The existing stormwater drains were cleaned and inlets that discharged sewage water into the pond were blocked. Residents surrounding the pond were encouraged to go in for underground drainage connections, which are now possible.
“Steps are also being taken to revive other less-known ponds in the Ambattur zone,” says a Corporation official.