|Location||Velachery, Chennai, Tamil Nadu|
Velachery aeri (Tamil: வேளச்சேரி ஏரி), or Velachery lake, is one of the lakes inside Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with a good stock of water all through the year. Since Velachery is a low-lying area, the monsoon rain water from the neighbouring areas are drained into this lake. CHENNAI: In an unexpected turn of events, the Chennai Corporation has decided to put on hold the proposal for boat rides and other tourist facilities on the Velachery lake, one of the few water bodies still alive in the city. The reason it has cited is the high level of contamination of the water.
"The water is totally contaminated and not conducive for boating. At present, stormwater drain works are in progress near the lake, which we hope will put an end to illegal discharge of sewage from residential areas. It could be dangerous for children to go on a boat ride on the contaminated waterbody," corporation commissioner D Karthikeyan told TOI.
The ambitious programme of the corporation was conceived three years ago[when?]. The local body had even engaged a consultant, shortlisted by experts from Anna University, Public Works Department and the agriculture department. The consultant gave a detailed plan in October last on how to beautify the lake. This included removal of encroachments in Gandhi Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar, fencing of the entire waterbody, provision of three decks for walking, viewing and fishing and a boating jetty. The consultant also suggested plantation of African grass, reed and bamboo along the middle deck and flowering plants and trees like bottlebrush, bougainvillea, royal palms and areca nut betel palms along the upper deck.
Poor upkeep of the lake has been a subject of discussion for years now, as locals vent their anger against government agencies. "It is sheer neglect on part of the government that has led to the degradation of the lake. It breached at six places a few years ago due to poor maintenance. Plenty of representations were made to the departments concerned to maintain the lake, but in vain," said A Ramasamy of Federation of Velachery Welfare Associations and a resident of Lakshmi Hayagriva Nagar.
Had the lake been properly maintained, it could have been a major source of drinking water. The rapid pace of real estate development in the last two decades resulted in the shrinking of the waterbody from 265 acres to 55 acres now. The government allocated 53 acres to the Tamil Nadu Housing Board and 34 acres to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board for housing development. The encroachers on Erikkarai Street in Gandhi Nagar, who don't have sewage connections, are contributing to the pollution of the lake, locals said.
There are about 2,000 families living in the southern bund. Even though some have toilets in the backyard, they conveniently direct the pipelines to the lake, causing extensive damage to the waterbody. The government's efforts to relocate the encroachers has not yielded satisfactory results. Corporation officials said they were trying to convince encroachers to get sewer connections by paying a nominal fee of Rs 100. "That is the least we can do," said a senior official.