Friday, March 23, 2012

News Article: Century-old lake to get new life

TNN | Mar 22, 2012, 11.43AM IST

SALEM: If everything goes well, the century-old Panaimaratupatti Lake in Salem will spot a new look. The city corporation has set aside Rs 25 crore in the forthcoming budget to reclaim and develop the lake into a tourist spot. Panaimaratupatti, about 15 km away from Salem city, is the largest water body in the district, spread across 2,400 acres.

"As part of the renovation, various works including lake de-silting, bank strengthening, construction of approach roads and building of centenary arch will be taken up. A Delhi-based private company has been entrusted to prepare a project for the renovation," said mayor S Soundappan.

The lake was annexed to the Salem municipality in 1905 to meet the irrigation and drinking water requirements of the civic body. Till the late 1980s it was a major source of water for 10 neighbouring villages. It was maintained well until it started being replenished by the Cauvery River, when it fell into the hands of encroachers.

Former chairman and present vice-chairman of Panaimaratupatti town panchayat K Balachandran said, "About 90% of the land belonging to the lake has been encroached upon by local landowners and farmers". These encroachers have dug nearly 450 wells in the area and started farming activities. The lake bed, which is completely lost to the encroachers, now has 2,500 coconut trees and 200 tamarind trees.

Before 1970, parents refuse to marry their daughter to Rasipuram municipal area, 27 km from Salem, due to the water scarcity in the area. Later an agreement was signed between Rasipuram and Salem municipalities to share water from the Panamarutupatti lake.

"It was done in 1970s, when my mother Maragatham Thiyagarajan was the councilor and Ramakrishnan was chairman of Salem municipality," said Baby Geethanjali, a resident of Gugai in Salem. During those days Panaimaratupatti was so fertile. Various products, including flowers like oleander, rose, crossandra, and grains like blackgram, turmeric, banana were grown and was exported to Bombay, she said.

When the encroachments went unabated, a few activists started to protest. D Kaliyaperumal, a resident from Panaimaratupatti filed a PIL in Madras high court in 2004 against the encroachment. "Even the high court ordered for eviction, but the encroachments continued. Eviction orders were executed only after the contempt petition was filed before the high court," he said. Encroachments were removed with the help of then MLA Vijayalakhsmi Palanisamy and then SP Pon Manickavel and the boundary was fenced in 2005.

Though during the previous AIADMK government initiated some works, it was put on cold storage after the change of government.

The residents have welcomed the corporation move. B Devaki, former chairman of Panaimaratupatti town panchayat, who had voiced her concerns about the lake during her tenure said, "It has a catchment area of nearly 700 acres. Tree saplings will be planted in the remaining part of the land and it will be developed into a tourist spot like that of Yercaud or Kodaikanal".

D Kaliyaperumal, who filed the PIL said, "The Corporation's move is welcomed. However, almost all streams from which the lake received water, are been encroached upon. Only if encroachments are removed, the lake will get adequate water."

Salem: The century old lake, 'Panaimaratupatti Lake' 15 the Salem city is going to be the best tourism spot in Salem very soon. For which, the Salem corporation will make a proposal worth Rs.25 crore. 'Panaimaratupatti lake' is one and only lake in the Salem district, having a vast area which has the surface of nearly 2,400 acre.

To cater the water requirement for the purposes of irrigation, drinking, etc of the then Salem Municipality (now Salem corporation), it was alienated to the Salem municipality in 1905 by the Chennai presidency. The lake which gave fertility to the lands in nearly ten villages, spread around 10 k.m from Panaimaratupatti, since its function from 1911 to 1980s. After which it noticed degradation over the years.

The local resident, the former chairman and the present vice-chairman of the Panaimaratupatti town panchayat K. Balachandran said, "the lake was properly maintained till the arrival of Cauvery water. After that the lake was not maintained properly. Meanwhile, the lake went into the hands of encroachers gradually. 90 percent of the land, belong to the lake, was encroached by the local land lords and the remaining by the farmers".

"They trespassed into the land and dug nearly 450 wells in the land by which they actively involved in farming activities", he said. The lake has now got nearly 2,500 coconut trees, 200 tamarind trees which are grown over the years. Bfore that, the lake has extended its great help to the bridegrooms in Rasipuram municipality which is 27 kilometer away from Salem. Baby Geethanjali of Gugai in Salem said that the parents will not give their daughters to the bridegrooms in Rasipuram because of Rasipuram's water scarcity.

"In order to find solution to that social problem, an agreement was made between the municipalities of Salem and Rasipuram. It was done in 1970s, when my mother Maragatham Thiyagarajan was councilor and Ramakrishnan was chairman in Salem municipality". Geethanjali said.She remembered that the lands in and around Panaimaratupatti were so fertile earlier. Various products including flowers like oleander, rose, crossandra, and grains like blackgram, turmeric, banana, which were grown in that lands, were supplied to Bombay via Bangalore.

"Meantime, the environment around the lake was not seen, as it was in its earlier period", Geethanjali said. The local social-enthusiasts, struggled for the protection of the lake. The resident of the Panaimaratupatti D. Kaliyaperumal filed the public interest litigation before Madras High court in 2004. When asked he said, "even the High court ordered for eviction, the encroachment were not evicted. It was done only after the contempt petition, filed before the Highcourt".

Finally, the encroachments in the lake were removed with the help of then local MLA Vijayalakhsmi Palanisamy and then SP Pon. Manickavel. and put wire-fencing there in 2005. However, there was no improvement in developing the lake. When asked Balachandran, he said "then the admk government had taken steps to develop the lake. However, due to change in government in 2005, the lake developing activity was put in cold storage. Because, the former minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam wanted to release the under ground water into the lake, as it was not used then. But it was opposed".

Now, the Salem corporation has taken steps to make the Panaimarathupatti lake as a tourism spot. Mayor S. Soundappan said, "the lake is going to be renovated at the cost of Rs.25 crore. Under the renovation works, various activities like lake silting, bank strengthening, approaching roads to the lake and establish the centenary arch will be taken".

"Regarding renovation work, the delhi based private company DHI is being entrusted to make a proposal", according to mayor. It is welcomed by the residents of Panaimaratupatti. B. Devaki, the former chairman of Panaimaratupatti town panchayat, voiced for the protection of the lake in her period. She said, "by this lake the agricultural activities in ten villages, around Panaimaratupatti, got fertile. It has the water catchment of nearly 700 acre out of 2,400 acre. Tree saplings will be planted in the remaining parts of the land and make it tourism spot as Yercaud and Kodaikanal".

D. Kaliyaperumal, the public interest litigator said, "the corporation's move is welcomed. However, now, almost all the streams from which the lake received water, are under encroachments. If such encroachments will be removed, then the lake will get enough water and will serve its real purpose".

Copyright © 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service

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