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Vol. XXX No. 19, February 1-15, 2021

Our Readers Write

A note on Temple Tanks

With reference to the article that appeared in Madras Musings January 16th, 2021 on Temple Tanks, I wish to make the following comments and observations:

A temple tank should be thought of as an open (dug) well at the macro level.

It is supposed to collect seepage water from the subsoil and hence the water level within the tank will be the same as that of the water table in its neighbourhood.

A healthy way to see water within the temple tank is to build up the water table in its neighbourhood and not by filling it from outside.

Of late, the management of temples, in order to retain water within the tank (for the purpose of performing the float festival) are creating an impermeable bed by filling it up with clayey soil. This is not good practice. The bed of the temple tank should only be native soil.

In the recent past, the management of a few temples (Thiruvanmiyur and Mylapore Kapaliswarar) dug bore wells within the tank, pumped groundwater from below and tried to fill up the tank just for the sake of performing the float festival.

This is highly objectionable since it would deplete the groundwater levels in the entire neighbourhood and may lead to saline intrusion in places like Thiruvanmiyur.

This was even challenged in the High Court by the residents of Valmiki Nagar and the court ordered a stay to the activity. But pumping of groundwater still continues.

People should reconcile to the fact that if there is no water in the temple tank, there is no water. They should not try to artificially fill up the tank. A temple tank is not to be treated like a swimming pool. For example, float festival could not be performed in Kapaliswarar temple for a few years since the tank did not have enough water.

When M.G.Ramachandran was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, he arranged for cementing the entire bed of Parthasarathy temple tank in Triplicane. As a result of this, open wells in the entire neighbourhood went dry and on the request of residents this was partially removed.

The reason for temple tanks in Thiruvotriyur, Triplicane, Mylapore (Chithrakulam, Virupakshiswarar temple) and Thiruvanmiyur remaining dry is that they are all located in traditional habitats (consisting of road side houses) where there is not much scope for implementing rainwater harvesting within the houses.

The rain falling on the roofs of these houses is drained onto the road, where no attempt was made till recently either by GCC or HR&CE to harvest it. Recently, some attempts have been made to divert this runoff water into the Chithrakulam and Virupakshiswarar temple tank, thanks to Mylapore M.L.A. Natraj.

Groundwater extraction has increased ­manifold in the neighbourhood of all the temple tanks, while rainwater harvesting has not.

Lastly, the bed in all the above-mentioned temple tanks consisting of sandy soil will only play the role of recharge ponds rather than tanks. A healthy way of retaining water in these tanks is to carry out extensive rainwater harvesting in their respective neighbourhood and build up the water table.

Sekhar Raghavan
Director, Rain Centre,
44, III Main Road (II Cross Street), Gandhi Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai 600020

Periodic maintenance needed

During the earlier renovation of the Kapaliswarar temple tank I was personally very active on the project. I camped in Chennai for a month to work with Sekhar Raghavan of Chennai and his team. We cleaned the tank of all debris and desilted it. We had a problem finding good catchment areas for the rainwater. In spite of our best efforts and my persuasive discussions, no commercial organisation, shop, restaurant or the main temple administration cooperated. Even a prominent hotel with many branches abroad, refused to give their roof area for catching rain water. I approached the Ramakrishna Mission next door to give their roof areas. But the building design was such that rain water collection was not easy.

I contacted P.S. High School nearby on the other side of the road. The School Administration was very helpful and gave me the entire roof area for rain water collection. My team and I created the facilities on the roof for efficient rain water collection and method of drainage from the roofs.

We had to lead the collected roof water to the temple tank and feed it. This required laying 6 inches diameter PVC pipes all the way from the catchment building to the temple tank. We had to cross the road whilst laying the pipe to feed the rain water to the tank. My team and I made a representation to M.K. Stalin, who was the Mayor of Madras (Chennai) at that time. The meeting was excellent. Mr. Stalin gave a patient hearing and our permission was granted. One day over a weekend we dug up the road and laid the pipes and completed all plumbing joints and filled the trench. By Monday morning the levelled road was ready for traffic movement. It was later metalled by the City Corporation.
Once the piping and feeding system was ready and installed we tested the set up. The water moved easily from the roof top of P.S. High School to the temple tank. The slope we had given to the pipeline was adequate.

In the monsoons that followed the system worked well and filled up the temple tank. I monitored the project for a couple of years.

Right now it is likely that the feeder pipeline is choked and probably the catchment area Rooftop maybe cluttered and preventing the easy flow of water. The solution is to clean, repair, rehabilitate and clear the feeder pipe line as well as the roof top catchment areas. Either the temple administration or the Corporation Water Department must assume responsibility for upkeep and maintenance of the rain water feeding system.

The system we set up is reliable and sturdy. It only needs cleaning and simple maintenance periodically. Pre-monsoon cleaning will do the trick.

Shekar KGF

Let’s be responsible

Referring to the article ­‘Sachet revolution’ in MM, January 1, 2021, the manufacturer takes the full responsibility for his products and supplies the market thereby ensuring they reach the customers in neat and healthy condition and for this he makes use of the packing technology of the present era. His responsibilities as far as the product is concerned end there. It is the consumer’s responsibility to see that the waste plastic container is properly handed over to the corporation waste collectors. This will reduce problems like drainage choking and livestock death.

M.K. Karthikeyan
East Thambaram

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