By Navmi Krishna K

CHENNAI: The Arasankazhani Lake, situated about 26 km from Chennai, is one of the lakes that had been successfully restored by a group of activists.

Located at the base of Sithalapakkam hills, the Arasankazhani Lake had been plagued by illegal sand-mining, heavy silting and was covered with weeds when a group of residents joined hands with conservationists from Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) to tackle the issue.

In two phases spanning over three years, the group first cleared the inlets and streamlined the weed growth in the water body. They then focused on laying the “outer and inner bunds, wind barriers and a large central G-shaped island” to provide an ideal ecosystem for the fishes and migratory birds.

Arun Krishnamurthy, who started the EFI in 2011, described the lake as one their “rarest success stories”.

“The lake is almost 90% restored,” he said. The monthly monitoring by a group of dedicated volunteers has helped maintain the lake’s health.

One of the major challenges faced by the team during the restoration of water bodies was the laxity that the government shows in imposing regulation that curtails construction around the lake in flood prone areas. The 19-storey DLF apartment being constructed barely a stone’s throw away from the lake stands witness to this.

Arun believedthat the 2015 Chennai floods had helped considerably in sensitizing people to the ill-effects of misplaced ‘development’. “In a way, the floods help people realize the extent of damage we have inflicted on the environment,” said Arun.

The area surrounding the lake was fully submerged in the December floods. According to the locals, around 16 people from the area lost their lives in the flood.

S.Maarimuthu, a local of the area, said that the apartments that are being constructed around the lake were submerged. “There was only water as far as the eye can see,” he added.

“That’s true,” said Arun. “Ironically, the board of a nearby building named ‘Floating Hills’ was the only thing that was visible!” he chuckled.