Located in Dindigul district city of Kodaikanal, the Kodai Lake is a man-made lake, which was created due to a scenario unique to Kodaikanal. As the roads up to this hill-town were being built, large masses of soil that were necessary in creating the path up the hill, were needed. As this soil was removed to create the road, a large area of approximately 60 acres had been cleared. During the monsoon rains, which, like in many other parts of Tamil Nadu, leave the town with some days of near constant rain, the area was filled with water, beginning to appear like a lake.
Looking upon this, Sir Vere Henry Levinge, the then Collector of Madurai, was backed by the British and early missionaries from the USA, to create the Kodai Lake: an area, which is considered the town’s main tourist attraction, since its creation in 1863
Yet, however interesting the story is of Kodai Lake’s creation is, what is far more unique about this lake, as compared to many other lakes in India, are the efforts to protect the lake.
For example, a study in 2007 by the Department of Atomic Energy confirmed that the lake had been contaminated by mercury emissions by a thermometer factory located near the lake. Now, if you are to walk by it, you will see it as a completely abandoned shed. Moreover, conservation efforts by the Government of India and Tamil Nadu Government’s National Lake conservation plan, since 2001, have greatly improved the state of the lake. Costing approximately Rs. 10.33 crores, the restoration efforts included Bio remediation, sewage treatment (due to high pollution loads of organic matter from commercial establishments around the lake), the construction of low-cost sanitation facilities around the lake, spreading awareness, de-weeding, interception and diversion works, dredging and fencing around the lake.
Moreover, such conservation efforts have lead to making Kodai lake the center of the city’s economy and the everyday life’s of residents, even to the point that many businesses have set themselves up further away from the lake now, so that they no longer embank the water body. Many hotels and resorts have also been set up around the lake, attracting hordes of tourists year-on-year. Though such tourists are a significant factor contributing to the pollution of the lake, the tourism this city receives because of the lake has made the conservation of the lake a priority for hotels and the various businesses around the city. Over the last 12 years, visiting Kodaikanal with my family, I have seen the city grow, while seeing the lake becoming cleaner every year. Garbage thrown on the banks of the lake has greatly diminished, as it has become the norm for more people to shun those, who climb past the fencing and disturb the ecosystem of the lake by throwing cigarette buds or chips packets.
Such an effect, which the lake has had on Kodaikanal, is one which various cities around India should aim to learn from, resoluting in a better treatment of our lakes.
The above is a guest write-up by Hrsh Venket, one of our interns.