This man dedicated his life to reviving dirty bodies of water
Ohen one of the community wells in his village dried up, Manikandan recounts how it caused hardship for his family who depended on it for domestic purposes. As people were talking about the problem all over the village, a 17-year-old Manikandan decided to find out the root cause of this event.
After extensive research, he identified that a nearby irrigation stream that was replenishing underground aquifers had also dried up. Further investigations on his part revealed that a control dam a few kilometers away was partially damaged and this prevented the storage of water during the rainy season, as a result the canal and the well dried up during the rainy season. ‘summer.
Understanding the root cause, Manikandan wasted no time in notifying the relevant government authorities and in no time the water issues were resolved.
It was in the year 2000.
Since then, there has been no turning back for Manikandan, who went on to form an NGO – Kovai Kulangal Padhukappu Amaippu (KKPA) meaning Coimbatore Ponds Protection Organization – with a mission to revive and rejuvenate the bodies of water throughout Coimbatore.
Manikandan’s work has even earned him several accolades, including the Water Warrior award from Jal Shakthi’s ministry this year.
Revive one pond at a time
Growing up in a poor family in Sundarapuram, Coimbatore, Manikandan did not have the privilege of completing his schooling. He had to drop out of school after class 8 and joined a workshop as an apprentice.
But since he solved the water problems in his village, he realized that such local problems could be solved with a little effort and by contacting the right authorities. “Later, I started working on solving these community-specific issues. I became more involved in social work and formed a group that helped elderly people and people with disabilities apply for government assistance. Our group has also carried out sports and cultural activities, assisted government officials during the population census, electoral roll verification campaigns and also participated in tree planting, blood donation camps, desilting of sewers storms, etc. has been involved in social work for over 20 years.
Her work took a different turn in 2017 when Coimbatore faced the challenge of severe water shortages. “It was then that I formed a small group of citizens of 14 people to try to solve the problem of water scarcity in the region. Thus, Kovai Kulangal Padhukappu Amaippu was formed and embarked on projects to revive, recover, rejuvenate and reclaim the water bodies in and around Coimbatore,” he explains.
Today, the NGO has around 100 regular active members, including students and professionals who have participated in the desilting of lakes, ponds, canals, control dams, etc.
“We decided to focus on revitalizing those water bodies that were neglected and in need of maintenance and to establish a link with the local community to ensure future maintenance,” he adds.
The first project undertaken by the NGO was the rehabilitation of the 264-acre Lake Perur in 2017. calls via social media platforms. It took us about four Sundays to complete the clean-up work which involved removing thorny trees, shrubs, plastic waste and other litter from the bed and levees of the dry lake,” says Manikandan, adding that with the rains monsoon, Lake Perur was filled after 12 years. . “We have so far removed around 150 tonnes of plastic from different bodies of water,” he says.
Subsequently, in the following years, the NGO resumed more voluntary work in Coimbatore. “About 21.5 km of three canals namely Vellalore Rajavaiykal, Kuniyamuthur Canal and Kattampatty have been de-sanded, leveled and cleaned. This resulted in three lakes such as Lake Vellalore (85.9 acres), Perur Big Tank (265 acres) and Lake Kattampatty (160 acres) being filled with water after almost 15 years,” he says.
“In addition, we have so far completely desilted about five ponds across the city. After desilting, Malumichampatty Pond (11 acres), Vellachi Pond (3.61 acres), Mahaliamman Kovil Pond ( 3.5 acres), Kadaikaran Pond (1.12 acres) and Odaikadu Pond (1.15 acres) produced nearly 1.412 million cubic feet of excess water,” he said, adding that these ponds were dry for long periods before the sand removal works.
The water table has increased significantly in these areas and has helped farmers to expand their cultivation. “Malumichampatti pond remained dry for about 15 years and as farmers we had to source water from outside for farming. But after the NGO de-silted the pond a few years ago, it was filled,” says Ramaswami, a local farmer.
“There are over 900 such ponds in Coimbatore and we are now trying to work on de-silting the rest,” says Manikandan.
In addition to revitalizing water bodies, the NGO has also planted trees and conducted planting campaigns. “About 10,000 native tree saplings, including 90 varieties of medicinal plants and more than 40 varieties of flowering plants, have been planted in the Miyawaki forests near Lake Vellalore. In addition, about 2,000 trees have been planted to improve the biodiversity near Perur Big Tank,” he says, adding that a butterfly garden has also been established with more than 40 varieties of flowering plants to provide food for butterflies, bees, wasps and other insects.
(Editing by Yoshita Rao)