CHENNAI : Under a sizzling Chennai sun, buffaloes take a dip in the dark sewage water, pigs run here and there, smoke from the cremation ground fills the air with dark smoke. A hill of garbage, full of plastic bags and domestic waste, spreads a stench. The scene is the Royapettai reservoir in Ward No 23 in Ganapathipuram locality. The surroundings are an eyesore, filled with garbage and waste water.
Mangala Rajan, a resident of Bala Murugan street in Ward No 23, recalls the year 1963 when he first settled in the locality. “I saw the reservoir with water to the brim during the monsoon. When trains passed through this area in the rainy season, they had to slow down or stop owing to the overflowing water. But today the lake is awful. It is a dump yard,” he gets emotional as he tells the tale. “When people purchased the plots from realtors, they didn’t enquire about the land. This is government property. The government has to take action,” he says.
K Sriram of Munusamy Street in this ward says, “Bore water is no longer available in the surroundings as there is no water in the Royapettai reservoir. The groundwater has sunk to great depths. Water that comes through our pipes is yellowish in colour and causes skin diseases.”
There are 10,000 families in Ward No 23. Most are daily labourers who struggle hard to make a living. They have no access to clean potable water. The original area of the Royapettai reservoir was 125 acres. Then people began to buy plots from real estate agents and build houses. There was encroachment on all sides. What was once a sprawling 125 acres has shrunk to just 35 acres. The bypass road constructed a few years ago back running from east to west for 200 feet has further reduced the area of lake.
The lake is now completely dry but for stagnant sewerage water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
K Palani, a local politician, says, “It’s very difficult to live here during the rainy season as the reservoir gets filled with dirty water and the stench spreads through the locality.”
Chairman of Pallavaram municipality Nizzar Ahmed said that there was a project in 2006 to remove the garbage to a recycling plant. But before it could be completed, the contract was cancelled. A new contract was entered into in 2012. The garbage will be cleared within 6 months and action will be taken, he said.
Kancheepuram District Collector Harish Chhabria said that the clearing of garbage and subsequent cleaning of the lake is the duty of the Chennai Corporation and policing of the area is the duty of the city police commissioner. “We will initiate legal action against encroachers and redeem the land,” he stated.
Ward councillor N Ramamurthy (ADMK) states that after cleaning and deepening the lake could be used as a reservoir once again. He believes Amma will take positive action.