Seven historic lakes revived under Smart City project in Coimbatore
A view of the Periyakulam Lake I Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Seven historic lakes revived under Smart City project in Coimbatore

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Until a few years ago, the expansive 300-acre Periyakulam Lake, situated at the centre of Coimbatore, was marred by pollution, encroachment, and an unpleasant odour. However, today it glimmers in the sunlight, transformed into a prominent recreational area within the city’s historical backdrop.

This transformation has been brought through a smart city project to revive and rejuvenate seven of the city’s centuries-old lakes which were historically used as part of the irrigation system in the area.

“Cleaning and rejuvenation of this cascading system of lakes is the biggest project under the Coimbatore Smart City since our city was selected for the initiative. Work on it began in 2017 and we picked up revival of these seven lakes as a major and ambitious project under the smart city to not only rejuvenate the natural ecosystem, but also create more recreational spaces in this fast-developing city,” Coimbatore’s Municipal Commissioner M Prathap said.

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Prathap, who is also the CEO of Coimbatore Smart City, on Friday gave a PowerPoint presentation on the various projects being undertaken under the initiative for which the city was selected in 2016, at the Integrated Control and Command Centre (ICCC), the nerve centre of the control and monitoring of various IT-driven projects.

Later in an interaction with PTI here, he shared that “nearly 92 per cent of the work” on projects under the Smart City are over, and rest of the work is expected to be completed by September this year.

Asked about the cost of the lake’s revival project, Prathap said about Rs 350 crore has been spent on this key project.

“Since the revival of these lakes which were built during the Cholas rule, the lakefront as well as the main lakes have become a hub of recreational activities, and as Coimbatore is growing rapidly with a lot of IT and other professionals in the city, this will offer them a great place to relax and unwind while enjoying the beautiful nature,” he said.

Baskar Srinivasan, General Manager, Coimbatore Smart City, says the rejuvenation of the lakes in the river Noyyal basin, has also attracted migratory birds to these water bodies. Periyakulam lakefront, particularly, has been decked up with artworks, and cycle tracks and amphitheatres have been provided for cultural activities.

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“These lakes were built by the Chola kings in the 8th century, and Periyakulam Lake, the biggest lake in Coimbatore, is part of the cascading system of about 30 lakes, which was used for irrigation in ancient times. Over a period of time, these lakes got neglected, polluted and encroached upon. And, silting reduced the water holding capacity,” Srinivasan told PTI here.

Periyakulam, particularly, was covered in hyacinth and stench emanated from it, but now people are coming for boating, jet skiing and other water sports and lakefront activities since the revival, he said.

“A couple had even booked a speedboat to celebrate their anniversary in the middle of this lake,” Srinivasan said, adding that the quality of water has considerably improved with water treatment plants being set up under the project.

The waste water treatment plants of around 10 MLD constructed in the lakefronts have improved the water quality of the lakes, he added.

Sculptures made from municipal metallic waste have also been displayed on one portion of the Periyakulam lakefront while a light and sound show on water screen is expected to start soon.

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On Friday evening, a group of young women were seen practicing dance steps near the giant I Love Kovai signage put up at the Periyakulam Lake front under the rejuvenation project.

The other six lakes taken up under the Smart City project are — Krishnampathy Lake, Selvampathy Lake, Kumaraswamy Lake, Selvachinthamani Lake, Valankulam Lake and Kurichikulam Lake.

The other two lakes in the city — Singanallur Lake and Narasampathy Lake — have not been touched so far due to their better condition and biodiversity, Srinivasan said.

He explains that the old interconnected system of lakes, their canals and rivulets with the river Noyyal formed an active flood buffer — festooning the course of the river to contain and channelise the fury of the monsoon — as well as also aided in the recharge of groundwater.

This system further helped improve the agricultural wealth of this region, about 20,000 acre of agricultural land was directly irrigated through this system, the official added.

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The per capita public space availability in Coimbatore city was estimated to be 2.17 sqm before the commencement of smart city projects in 2017. According to WHO standards, 9 sqm per capita open space is expected to be provided in urban areas. Due to the smart city lake projects, per capita availability of public space has increased to 4.9 sqm from 2.17 sqm, according to data shared by the Coimbatore Smart City Limited (CSCL).

“All illegal encroachment on the seven lake fronts (20,389 dwellings) have been completely removed over the past decade. Nearly 28 acres of land has been retrieved and brought to public use. The number of households rehabilitated and provided tenements with security of tenure stands at 7,680 under the Smart City Mission,” the CSCL said.

After the restoration and rejuvenation of lake projects, more than 2,000 people from various neighbourhoods abetting the water bodies frequent the lakefronts on daily basis for walking, jogging, cycling, yoga and other sporting activities.

Boating, food courts, bird watching tower are some of other features of the revived Periyakulam and its lakefront development. The Smart City Experience centre in the Periyakulam lake precincts serves as a learning and recreational centre, officials said.

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Promotion of active lifestyle has a direct bearing on the health of citizens. More than 10,000 people on weekends are visiting these developed lakefronts for leisure and recreational activities, according to CSCL.

Coimbatore Smart City CEO Prathap hopes that revival of the lakes and starting of recreation activities around it will also help boost tourism in the city.

“Most people use Coimbatore as a transit city like going to Isha Foundation campus. But we want tourists to spend at least a night in our city and see places in Coimbatore city too,” he added.

(With agency inputs)

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