Rethinking water physique restoration in Chennai

The method of science-based restoration requires good understanding of native hydrology, ecology, governance methods and socio-cultural practices within the space across the water physique. Pic courtesy: Okapi Analysis and Advisory

Through the years, the water our bodies in Chennai and throughout the state have been polluted and broken as a result of many causes together with fast urbanisation and encroachments. Repeatedly, the restoration work being carried out in these water our bodies make it to the information. Usually, the native our bodies rope in Non-Governmental Organisations to supervise or perform both your complete or some parts of the restoration work. This aside, many non-public firms additionally chip in with Company Social Duty (CSR) funds to hold out restoration work.

Whereas the restoration work is carried out by completely different companies at completely different locations, there are not any pointers or normal methodology for ecological restoration to make sure that a scientific and scientific method is adopted. Efforts are additionally not taken to make sure the sustainability of impression. This leaves completely different companies to observe completely different approaches relying on the extent of experience they’ve on the topic.

What are the prevailing pointers?

Although there isn’t a normal methodology prescribed for water physique restorations as such, the Central Air pollution Management Board, in 2019, revealed the Indicative Tips for Restoration of Water Our bodies in compliance with an Nationwide Inexperienced Tribunal (NGT) order.

Following this, the Tamil Nadu authorities additionally got here up with an motion plan in 2019 adopting the stated pointers. The indicative pointers have been framed with an intention to make pollution-free water our bodies, meet the specified water high quality standards, protect extra water throughout monsoon, restore and increase storage capacities of water our bodies, serve and improve groundwater recharge and enhance the supply of water for various supposed functions.

In keeping with the indicative pointers, the restoration actions are envisaged underneath 5 phases specifically the popularity section, restoration section, safety section, enchancment section and sustenance section.

Flow chart of model lake/pond restoration techniques from the indicative guidelines for water body restoration of Central Pollution Control Board
The movement chart explains the step-by-step technique of mannequin lake/pond restoration methods. Pic: Indicative pointers for water physique restoration, Central Air pollution Management Board.

The actions to be carried out underneath every of those levels are as follows

Recognition section

  • Assortment and upkeep of historic, geographical and hydrological info associated to the water our bodies
  • Catchment description of the water physique
  • Digital mapping of all of the collected info

Restoration/hole evaluation section

  • Identification of ‘Designated use of water physique’ via evaluation of the water high quality
  • Identification of sources of air pollution, quantification and assessing detailed hole evaluation (sewage administration, waste administration, industrial effluent administration)
  • Identification of every other points that require consideration

Safety section/planning and DPR preparation stage

  • Preparation for motion plans for waste administration
  • De-silting
  • De-weeding
  • Mechanical and organic management measures
  • Prohibition of discharges, waste disposal, washing actions and motion towards violators
  • Stabilisation of earthen bunds and the drainage channels together with silt and soil erosion management measures
  • Safety of drainage basin, elimination of encroachments and blockages and flood management measures

Enchancment section

  • Adoption of in-situ methods for in-situ remediation
  • Drainage basin administration
  • Creation of inexperienced or buffer zone
  • Creation of biodiversity atmosphere
  • Monitoring the implementation of motion plans

Sustenance section

  • Creation of consciousness amongst citizen’s teams, residents welfare associations, native organisations, activists teams, inexperienced organisations, political organisations, instructional organisations and authorities companies
  • Organising periodic trainings via recognized and reputed establishments
  • Selling public participation
  • Dissemination of data
  • Creation of leisure centres
Flow chart of model lake/pond restoration from the indicative guidelines for water body restoration of Central Pollution Control Board
The movement chart explains the step-by-step lake/pond restoration course of. Pic: Indicative pointers for water physique restoration, Central Air pollution Management Board.

These pointers are solely indicative and are restricted to the restoration of ponds, lakes, polluted rivers or streams. Nevertheless, involved stakeholders are suggested to conduct an in depth hole evaluation and embrace associated motion plans for the restoration of water our bodies.


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What strategies do completely different organisations observe?

Jayshree Vencatesan, the Managing Trustee of Care Earth Belief, who works on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecological restoration of water our bodies in Chennai, says, “Any organisation that’s keen to take up the restoration work would first should submit an in depth estimate of the work together with the time-frame for completion. The federal government doesn’t give blanket permission. It comes with lots of situations. Nevertheless, these situations are normal in nature just like the elimination of waste and how you can deal with silt from the water physique. There are not any unique pointers for the restoration course of as such.”

This leaves completely different organisations to take completely different approaches. Given this case, Okapi Analysis and Advisory, an environmental analysis and consulting company, and Care Earth Belief developed a science-based, easy-to-read ecological lake restoration handbook which is accessible by anybody enthusiastic about studying/implementing restoration work.

In keeping with the methodology proposed within the handbook, the implementation of ecological restoration might be carried out in 5 levels. The timeline for execution varies relying on the sort and dimension of the wetland.
Step 1: Establish candidate wetland and conduct a baseline evaluation
Step 2: Assess wetland character and integrity
Step 3: Set restoration purpose
Step 4: Perform restoration
Step 5: Operationalise an exit technique


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“Each water physique is exclusive in its personal approach and has its personal hydro-geo morphology, demographic traits and an outlined ecology to itself. So, all lakes can’t be restored in template format. The restoration course of is akin to how the quantum of medical care varies from affected person to affected person visiting the hospitals,” says Arun Krishnamurthy, the Founding father of Environmentalist Basis of India (EFI), an organisation that has taken up restoration of a number of lakes in Chennai.

“Nevertheless, sure fundamental requirements like the quantity of rubbish dumped within the water physique, the extent of invasive species, the structural integrity just like the water holding space, boundaries, encroachments and water high quality are important and needs to be appeared into,” says Arun.

As for the method adopted by EFI, Arun factors out that the tactic varies from lake to lake. Nevertheless, the organisation appears to be like largely into ecological restoration because the tasks they take up should not ingesting water restoration tasks however slightly habitat restoration tasks that embrace flood prevention and groundwater penetration.

“Guaranteeing structural integration of the water physique, defending the habitat traits, understanding the silt, sand and clay composition of the soil construction and the influx and outflow traits are a few of the pointers we glance into whereas finishing up the restoration work,” says Arun.

Whereas he factors out that the indicative pointers are nothing however an ordinary working process, he says that no specific template of standardised methodology would go well with all water our bodies. He additionally says that the organisations finishing up the restoration work are scrutinised by the related division officers in any respect levels of the method.

A supply from a personal development firm based mostly in Chennai, who labored on the restoration of water our bodies belonging to each Better Chennai Company and the Public Works Division, says that after they approached the native physique with CSR funds, they have been allotted solely beautification work within the water our bodies. This contains laying concrete footpaths and establishing ornamental lights.

“This aside, we have been requested to desilt the lake, strengthen the bunds and put up fences,” says the supply. They add that they adopted the directions of the officers to hold out the desilting and bund strengthening work as they didn’t have anybody with experience within the discipline on board.

An official from the PWD, who sought anonymity, says that when the federal government floats a young, solely non-structural parts comparable to elimination of waste, invasive species, desilting, bund strengthening, plantation and fencing can be allotted to the organisations.

Structural work like clearing up sluices and setting up new ones, managing inlet and outlet regulators can be taken care of by the division itself. He additional added that solely site-specific laws are adopted and no standardised methodology for ecological restoration is in place.


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Standardised methodology a necessity of the hour

“Restoration means restoring one thing with respect to the way it existed there earlier than. If a water physique was unfold throughout 200 acres earlier than and now it’s only in an space of 40 acres, work within the title of restoration is carried out just for these 40 acres now,” factors out S Janakarajan, a retired professor from Madras Institute of Growth Research.

Fairly often, restoration means restoring the prevailing water-spread space by constructing concrete bunds and pathways. The construction of the unique water physique would have doubtless had a provide channel, catchment space, water unfold space, sluices, surplus channel and plenty of such parts.

“No matter is finished within the title of restoration is just an advert hoc intervention,” he says, including {that a} standardised methodology needs to be introduced in for rejuvenating the water our bodies.

There’s an absolute want for standardised methodology, agrees Jayshree. Totally different organisations take completely different approaches primarily as a result of there isn’t a standardised methodology. It depends upon the skilled experience that the organisations have, their priorities and background.

“Organisations headed by ecologists or specialists in the identical discipline take up a scientific method, and provides precedence to maximising the wetland space, enhancing species range and sustaining hydrological integrity. Others who come from completely different backgrounds could deal with setting up walkways, fencing and concrete bunds for strengthening. It could be proper of their perspective but it surely doesn’t make any sense ecologically,” she provides.

“For example, if 4 water our bodies in a locality are given to 4 completely different organisations, there arises a way of confusion and bitterness among the many native residents and generally they even get acrimonious. They ask us why we take up nature-based options, whereas others arrange sewage remedy vegetation. This provides rise to battle and reduces confidence on ecological restoration,” says Jayshree.

The basis reason behind the difficulty begins from the necessities acknowledged within the tender referred to as for restoring the water our bodies. Whereas the water our bodies are related in a cascade system, it falls underneath the jurisdiction of various departments of the federal government. These departments ought to work collectively in the direction of a holistic method to ecological restoration of the water our bodies beginning with setting some minimal requirements which can be widespread for all engaged in reviving town’s water our bodies.

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