The Adyar Creek- Chennai’s best kept secret

Chennai is know for its beaches, temples, politics, cinema, filter coffee and much more! Very little is talked about how ecologically blessed the megalopolis in the east coast of India is. Chennai is one of the few cities in the world to have 3 rivers that flow through its urban spread. It doesn’t end there, Chennai has reserve forests, marshlands, hills multiple lakes & ponds and of course the beaches! With such a unique ecological blend, Chennai in recent times is on the news for being the epicenter of the nation’s urban water crisis.

Being a resident of the city for the past 2 decades, little did I know about the sweet little wonder that meandered right behind my house, The Adyar creek; created by the backwaters from the Adyar estuary.

The Quibble Island, the island in Chennai that I live in is created by the Adyar Creek! The existence of this creek came to my notice when the road bridge that connects my colony to Mandaveli (A locality in east Chennai) was closed off and demolished overnight in mid-2007. This decision by authorities enraged the daily commuters and residents of the colony including myself. Little did we know that decision would protect the colony from the 2015 Chennai floods…

A couple of days after the demolition, the newspaper carried an article which said the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had laid the foundation for the restoration of the Adyar Creek, which would also incorporate an Eco-park for the public. This was when I knew the Adyar river had a creek!

Today the Adyar creek is a very important and well-protected ecosystem in the city which is home to a verity of insects, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, local & migratory birds. The Eco-park; Adyar Poonga a.k.a Tholkappia Poonga has very strict limit on visitors entry, this decision to restrict the number visitors entering this ecosystem is the reason as to why this creek still strives and hosts multiple lifeforms in the middle of this urban landscape.

Every time I walk across the newly laid wooden bridge, I take a moment to take in the beauty of mother nature. I’m glad that this pristine ecosystem is hidden away in the concert jungle and is inviting only birds, reptiles and amphibians. The mangrove trees all along the creek serve as a perfect nesting zone for many birds.

As a young budding photographer, I didn’t have to travel far to shoot (With my camera) some exotic birds, thanks to this creek I could do that right next to my house and practice my “wildlife photography” skills.

The Adyar Creek is a prime example of how there is still a fighting chance against climate change and it’s not too late to undo our wrongdoings over the years. All it takes is collaboration and participation from our end towards environment conservation.

Hopefully its NOT too late…

The above is a guest write-up by Vignesh Mahesh, E.F.I’s Communications Associate.

The Makarba Lake – Conservation through Volunteering

Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I) took the first footstep in Ahmedabad at the Makarba Tank. Makarba tank is situated right behind the historical Sarkej Roza Masjid.

The  Makarba tank was also the source of water to this monument. Recently due to various reasons of development \ rapid urbanization, the inflow of water to this place has been clogged. 

9th Feb 2020: Around 40 volunteers from various walks of life joined E.F.I for the peripheral lake clean up. The clean-up started at 8:30am and went on till 10:00am.

Around 55 bags of garbage was collected from todays clean up. The collected garbage was handed over to the Ahmedabad Municipal corporation which will be relocated to their solid waste collection facility. 

This was the first clean up organized by E.F.I in Ahmedabad and is to continue its volunteering drive in the city in months ahead.

We thank Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and all the volunteers who joined us today for strengthening our efforts.

We looking forward to volunteering with you in the walled city!

Volunteer for India and her Environment!

-Jai Hind-

The Perungudi Lake – nature vs. economic growth?

It was about two years ago that I moved from my home of 9 years in Egmore to the Kandanchavadi area in Perungudi. As I left my old house with my family, looking intently out of the window, I was amazed at the sight of the Perungudi Lake. Having lived on a main road in the centre of the city, a few hundred from Egmore railway station, I enjoyed the relative stillness of the lake and the calm and quiet atmosphere it gave to the area around it. 

Upon a quick google search, one may find that Perungudi lake is one of the few protected lakes in Chennai. Through initiatives by local organisations in our area, most notably the Perungudi Lake Area Neighbourhood Environmental Transformation (PLANET) Association and the Kamaraj Nagar Residents Welfare Association (RWA), Perungudi Lake has a path laid around it, along with a net, which covers most areas around the lake. Unfortunately, this is a measure that has not been duplicated around most lakes in our city and reflects a laudable effort by the various groups that develop the area.

This said, to a resident of Perungudi it is clear that these efforts are not reflected in the construction of the barrier and the pathway. As someone who enjoys the occasional run, I often found myself confronting a large gap in the path, wherein the pavement had to be broken to allow for the proper functioning and maintenance of the system draining water out of the lake, for household usage. Moreover, the fencing around the lake, though an impressive measure, fails to be effective in preventing people from entering the water body as it has some large gaps through it, making these measures not matching up with their intention of preventing novice diving and swimming – an issue, which has led to multiple deaths over the years. Moreover, the development of the area of the lake has led to significant gentrification in the area. With the development of various ‘lake view’ apartment complexes, which are left significantly empty, the preservation of the lake may, in fact, be a bane rather than a boon. 

Yet, this seems to be an equilibrium that is highly effective for the area. The open areas of the fencing, given shade by the trees that line the lake, act as an effective spot for taxi and auto drivers to wash their vehicles and have their lunch, such that residents seldom find any issues in hailing Olas or Ubers. Moreover, the small stretch which leaves the lake area accessible to all, leaves a comfortable spot for people to rest at the end of the day or simply talk to their friends. This ‘fault’ makes the lake an integral part of not only the ecology, but the community, in this locale. Further, the jobs that it creates makes the lake vital to the economy – the various street cleaners, food stands and stores, which have opened around the lake, act as proof of this.

Having survived the rapid commercialisation and urbanisation, which has destroyed so much of our city’s ecology, Perungudi Lake shows that economic growth and nature may develop hand-in-hand so as to promote social welfare in a type of symbiotic relationship, wherein the preservation of the lake and its biodiversity is promoted by economic development of the area and the various businesses surrounding the lake depend on it for their sales.

After having spent time at a friend’s house or having left late from school and walking along the paved pathways laid around Perungudi Lake, I see all the stalls and shops, which depend on the central location of the water body. Among these shops lies a small temple, with a single idol, where people pray in. Neighbouring the temple, around a hundred meters away, I watch a large swatch of mosquitoes, all doing their evening deep-breathing exercises upon the cows resting on the streets. As I walk past this mess and greet the nearby shop-keeper with a gentle handwave, I find it glad to live near Perungudi Lake.

The above is a guest write-up by Hrsh Venket, one of our interns and a resident of Perungudi.

Nehru Nagar Pond – A little paradise on OMR

The Nehru Nagar pond, strangely located outside the area known as Nehru Nagar, is an oasis lying on the Old Mahabalipuram Road, in between Thoraipakkam and Karapakkam. It is a beautiful water body, which consists of heavenly palm tree islands and an herbal garden on it’s far side – a sight that one does not expect to see in an urban metropolis; especially not on the main road.

However, prior to EFI’s restoration of the pond, it contained large amounts of garbage and construction debris that had been dumped into it over the years. This restricts water from percolating and replenishing ground-water reserves – a resource, which Chennai depends on for freshwater. Despite this, the water holding area was able to retain water. With support from the Greater Chennai Corporation and funding support from Hexaware, EFI removed the debris from the pond, broadened bunds and built road-side fencing to protect the pond from the traffic and garbage of OMR. Since this measure has been implemented, the area’s garbage has gone down significantly.

Moreover, restoration efforts also included lining bunds with jute to prevent the bunds from erosion. This is a measure, which is especially important due to the heavy rainfall that Chennai receives during its monsoon seasons. Furthermore, some areas of the jute lining have grass planted on them as it both covers the jute and, of course, protects the bunds from wearing away over time. Such measures are especially helpful because of the effects of the trash and embankments of the city on the soil.

In the future, to renew the beauty of this pond, of which a part has been lost during the development of OMR, EFI is planning to add bird nests. This, alongside the birds and various other creatures which wade through Nehru Nagar Pond, make the place a sight that one cannot stop to look at while driving on the main road.

As I had gone to the pond, recently, a woman, who had been enjoying the view of the pond asked me for the time. Upon responding to her, she sighed that it was nearly time for her to go for her evening shift and that she would have loved to relax there for longer.

As she left, two kids took her place as one was chasing after the other, when both of them were slowing down to appreciate the beauty of the pond, before realising that they had slowed down and quickly getting back into their game.

It is clear that Nehru Nagar Pond, like our beaches and certain other water bodies in our city, has become an integral part of the lives of the people around it, bringing happiness, creating appreciation or even just providing a nice spot to relax. 

Let us, now, protect our lakes! 

Volunteer for India and her Environment with EFI!

The above is a guest write-up by Hrsh Venket, one of our interns

Giving birds a new home – how students upcycled shoe-boxes to save the environment

Saving nature is not difficult and can be done in creative ways, as students of the NSN group of schools proved!

About 150 students participated in E.F.I’s bird nest building workshop and designed unique birdhouses out of their old shoeboxes. 

Before the cutting and tinkering started, a short presentation about India’s birds was given to introduce the participants to the topic. Special attention was given to the sparrow, whose population has decreased rapidly in Chennai during the past few years.

In conclusion to that, the students were given the task to create sparrow nests, which differ from other birds’ nests through the little aperture in the front. Following the instructions, holes were cut and sticks were glued to the shoebox, resulting in 150 individual bird nests of multiple colors and sizes.

Once all papers and tapes were creatively placed on the bird’s new homes, the students were invited to experience the consequences of Global Warming on our ecosystems by themselves in a game. Followed by an open brainstorming, the importance of every single animal, plant &  how important water is to keep an ecosystem balanced was outlined. Furthermore, many participants came up with ideas on how they can contribute as an individual to the balance of the ecosystem and the reduction of effects caused by Global Warming in their daily life. 

As part of our education program, E.F.I is regularly hosting activities such as the bird’s nest-building, lake safaris and awareness sessions at schools. Our aim is to sensitize students awareness on the environment and encourage them to become young environmental leaders. Through directly experiencing and talking about nature, we hope to remind them of their exceptional connection to it, as well as the need to preserve it!

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I!

-Jai Hind-

E.F.I’s HydroStar | The Rainwater Harvesting Star | Episode-1

Water crisis and lack of water often grabs headlines. Do we ever take time to talk about those who are conserving and making a difference?

Here is E.F.I’s effort to celebrate individuals who care about water. Mrs. Maheshwari and family have been pioneers in Rain Water Harvesting.

Watch and learn, how each of us can participate in rainwater harvesting at home.

Our other YouTube Series:

Volunteer for India & her Environment with E.F.I!

E.F.I’s DOT- A Leadership Summit

Environmentalist Foundation of India is conducting ‘DOT workshops’ across the cities in India! It is an environmental leadership summit aimed at identifying young environmental leaders from across the schools in India. Through the one-day leadership workshop, we train a batch of 100 students and 50 teachers from across schools in a common venue. The focus subjects being Leadership, Decision making, Management and Project Planning.

E.F.I. has successfully finished 5 such workshops in Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Trivandrum in the last three months. The students who participated in this workshop will be assigned follow up activities for every month, throughout the year. The follow-up orientations have already kicked off in Chennai, soon the rest of the cities will start off the activities. These summits and workshops also offer an entry into a fellowship program with E.F.I., through which these young leaders can join hands with E.F.I. in the conservation of India and her environment.

Through this workshop, we aim to identify  young, enthusiastic and proactive environmental leaders who can take-up real-time conservation activities with E.F.I in our attempt to conserve India’s environment for a better tomorrow.

Swachhta Pakhwada – Indian Oil Partners With E.F.I

The Swachh Bharat Mission has been a revolutionary program, that aims at encouraging every Indian citizen to volunteer towards a clean India. The Indian Oil Corporation part of its commitment to the program and society partnered with Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I) to organize a nationwide volunteer drive at different water bodies.

The entire effort was executed between the 1st and the 15th of July, 2019. Efforts included the Yamuna Bank clean up in Delhi, Beach Clean Up in Mumbai, Lake/Pond clean up in Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The efforts didn’t stop at cleaning of water bodies, but also extended to schools where over two weeks several orientation programs on environment friendly India was organized covering nearly 1800 students.

With close to 2100 volunteers across 6 cities in 10 activities, the Swachhta Pakhwada joint efforts between IOCL and E.F.I saw active participation from citizens of all walks of life. Water bodies being the focus of this entire effort was to emphasize two strong messages of cleanliness and water conservation.

Volunteer for India & her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind.