Although it took years, Sabari Green and its resident volunteers have managed to oust encroachers and prevent garbage dumping in the lake.

Success story How an NGO and local residents joined hands to rejuvenate Madipakkam lake
news Ecology Saturday, March 11, 2017 - 21:19

All credits to an organization and residents’ initiative, Madipakkam lake is clean and clear now.

 Walk down to the the Madipakkam lake today, and it looks like everything you would want from an urban lake. The clear water looks cool and clean. The benches all around the lake are always occupied, and many more people take leisurely walks on the path around the water.

 Looking at the lake, you wouldn’t know that this is the result of years of work by dozens of people. Over the years, an organisation called the Sabari Green Foundation, with help from the local residents, has managed to force out encroachers and free the lake of garbage dumping.

 “The Madipakkam lake is about 60 acres of water body and we mainly focus on three processes – protection, promotion and rejuvenation,” says V Subramani, Founder-Secretary of Sabari Green Foundation.

The first step of removing encroachers Sabari Green undertook via the legal route. This was a more difficult process than they anticipated, since they received little support from the government. On the contrary, when they took the matter to the government, they found out that the government itself wanted to build a telephone exchange and a bus stand in the area. “After that, we moved the National Green Tribunal and the encroachments were removed,” says Subramani.

This done, the organisation now had to set up protection for the lake, from both new encroachers and from garbage dumpers. For this, the organisation turned to help from local residents. “We create a group of 12 members for every water body, who then bring in another 100 people who can protect the lake from garbage or encroachers. We also take support of other NGOs and prior permission from the PWD and local authorities,” says Subramani.

Two major challenges that the organisation faced at Madipakkam were open defecation and garbage dumping in the lake by local residents. “It is not only Madipakkam lake, in most of the lakes, people throw garbage into them. If do not protect the lakes, then how do we expect to get water from them?” asks Subramani.

To combat this, they took up a number of awareness campaigns  in the area, educating residents on the hazards  of dumping garbage in the lake.

Through all this, the lack of government support remained a challenge. “Another major challenge that social groups like ours face is that the government does not support us, and wants to take up projects for their own purposes. Many times, when the Tamil Nadu government does not support us, we have to take the case to the National Green Tribunal,” says Subramani.

However, all of Sabari Green’s and the local residents’ struggles have finally paid off, with the rejuvenation of Madipakkam receiving government impetus too. “The government has built a walker’s park and also put street lights near the lake. We have also got money from MLAs this year, so we will be able to improve the lake much more in the next year,” says Subramani.

For  the Sabari Green Foundation, which has been working for the preservation of  40 waterbodies in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts for the past 20 years, the Madipakkam success has been a  slow but fruitful victory. However, says Subramani, there are still many lakes such as the Chitlapakkam, Porur and Pallikarni lakes, which are struggling to match the example set by Madipakkam, and continue to suffer the effects of garbage dumping.

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