Chennai Residents Reclaim Sembakkam Lake

Chennai is home to some of the largest marshlands and lakes. The city has lost many to encroachments.
Chennai is home to some of the largest marshlands and lakes. The city has lost many to encroachments.

Chennai: Choked with plastic and thermocol, grime floating, fish dead and stench prevailing – this is Sembakkam lake for you. It was once brimming with fresh water, birds dotting it and you could drink straight out of it. Today encroachments and garbage dumping have ruined the beautiful landscape.


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A growing health hazard.


Why? Storm water drains not desilted, residents dump garbage, sewage let into the lake, encroachment of private and commercial entities unchecked and consequently the municipality making it a dumping ground to even burn the garbage. The area has become a health hazard for the thousands living along the Sembakkam lake. After a long-drawn battle with the National Green Tribunal, the burning of garbage has now come to a stop.


Chennai, Sembakkam lake, Residents, Water pollution, Property, Encroachment, save
Plastic is strewn all over the lake area, which was once a walkers’ paradise.


Now that’s just one down, there is a host of problems yet to be resolved. A 15-year tussle with the Public Works Department, Tahsildar, Collector and Municipality are on to ensure sewage from Pallavaram, Chitlapakkam and Sembakkam are not routed to the lake and the garbage is completely cleared.


Water Pollution, property
Residents have been making matters worse by throwing garbage and defecating in the lake.


The residents want a comprehensive underground sewage system to be in place for the whole lake area. They also believe that the right solution to the garbage menace would be to have a separate Corporation amalgamating all local bodies which come under the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and not part of the Greater Chennai Corporation.

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The dumping of garbage by the Corporation might have stopped, but residents continue to add to the damage.


With the help of NGOs they are even drafting a proposal to the government to revive the lake at 10% the cost allotted. With the aid of Pratiks Enviro Solutions, they have devised an anaerobic method which treats the water body by gravity on its own. This method doesn’t need any manpower or electricity to run and experts claim it costs just 10% of what the government tender has allotted.

Sweage, save lake, pollution
Residents claim many illegal sewage links from neighbouring localities flow into the lake.


Officials say many living here continue to dump garbage on the lakebed, adding to their woes. This blame game between the residents and the government agencies continues but looking at the steely resolve of this group of residents, looks like very soon taking a walk down the lake watching a pelican graze will become a reality.

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