In 2006 Pitchandikulam began the transformation of an eroded, overgrazed 88 acre site at Mugaiyur into a thriving Eco-park. The natural coastal sand dune ecosystem has been restored and a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF) established to create a matrix of habitats that can support a greater range of wildlife.
The Kaluveli watershed area is 750 sq. kms which has 200 inter-connected eris (man-made water catchments) that drain into the Kaluveli flood plain. The area also has five sacred groves and two reserve forests. Pitchandikulam established the Kaluveli Environment Education Trust (KEET) in 2005 based at Nadukuppam (45 km north of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu) on a 35-acre site which was an environmental disaster. The land has been restored due to the plantation of the indigenous forest type. The Nadukuppam Forest is home to some 35,000 plants (trees, shrubs, ground covers) which have been planted over 17 years and include 300 species of coastal flora. It is a model surface rainwater retention landscape where 23 ponds have been created to harvest and store the rain for irrigation and water table replenishment. An extensive nursery raises and sells indigenous coastal forest plants. Nadukuppam also has an environment center which reaches out to surrounding schools. Women’s empowerment is taken care of through women’s self-help groups who are trained in making herbal products.
In 2010 a comprehensive eco restoration plan was executed on 72 acres of land for the Chettinad company. Thirty acres of water bodies were created, and several hills formed to the height of 28 meters. The entire site was planted with predominantly indigenous species and extensive landscaping, walkways, bridges were created.
The year 2015 was a time of reckoning for the coastal region of Tamil Nadu. On December 1st the region experienced the highest amount of rainfall in 100 years where over 400 people died, nearly 2 million people were displaced and losses amounting to 300 crores were incurred. There was serious need to take stock of situation and carry out immediate measures. TCS, Indian Institute technology of Madras and Pitchandikulam forest consultant got together to do the needful towards the positive rejuvenation of the environment.
The Siruseri water catchment area of which SIPCOT campus is located was identified as critical to the flooding of southern Chennai. A detailed hydrogeology survey of this area was carried out by IIT Madras. It came up with valuable recommendations to be implemented in the Siruseri water catchment to prevent future floods and to improve water management in the region.
This was to be executed in 2 phases; first the encroachment would be removed, and drainage channels cleared, secondly the storage capacity of the Siruseri twin lakes would be improved. IIT also recommended an eco-park and knowledge center in the area. This would help in sharing the experiences and lessons learned from the desilting and restoring the lake and channel systems. Such a center also enables demonstration of sustainable practices and would encourage an environmental planning conversation to happen between all the local stake holders.
PFC’s holistic vision included ecological and social factors. It puts together a replicable model of eco restoration that included in the age old system of 100’s of cascading lakes to west of Chennai. This would reduce the impact of flooding and also recharge the aquifers so that Chennai could have sufficient water in the summer months.
The plan included the transformation into a vibrant eco system of the degraded reserve forests above the Periya eri and Sitheri, which are infested with invasive exotic tree species. The forest area which is heavily eroded needs to be restored by the creation of water retention landscapes.
Awareness programs were conducted among the locals to gather their visions for Siruseri.
The conceptual plan of PFC also included provision for bunds, hills, platforms, islands and a site for the eco knowledge center.
The land development work of the Periya eri began on 17 December of 2018. In Sitheri the land formation work reached completion before the rains of 2019. More than 6,000 trees and shrubs of 60 indigenous species were planted during the last months of 2019. After over 35,000 machinery hours over 12,500 man hours and countless hours of design and creativity the twin lakes began to breathe again.
It feels positive that green blue energy is returning to an area that some 17 years ago was rural farm land but which was then transformed into an urban and industrial landscape. Hopefully with enlightened direction, SIPCOT and its surrounds can be a green model of how technological parks can be created.
Since the completion of the project in December 2019 Pitchandikulam has continued to maintain and develop the 100acre lake site. We now have a formal contract with SIPCOT to execute the maintenance and further plantations.
Alambara Resorts, the property of TT Groups, on the Yedayanthittu estuary near Kadapakkam
combined landscaping and planting an area of 40 acres.
Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants are the lead consultants in the ecological restoration of 58-acres of the Adyar Creek estuary in Chennai. The ecological restoration has created will result in an eco-park that is a showcase ecosystem of the Coromandel Coast with fresh water ponds, brackish areas, mangroves, mud flats, dunes, and islands. The information centre provides an educational focus to the park and is a place where children can come to watch the Creek’s birds, turtles, reptiles and other animals. One of the highlights of the eco-park is the presence of water bodies surrounded by typical vegetation found in a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest.
The Adyar wetland reserve is a significant link for birds on their great annual migrations, particularly the wading birds who feed on the coastal mudflats. Historically, approximately 200 species of migratory birds visited the Adyar Creek region but many are now on the endangered International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. The restoration of this wetland will encourage many of these species to return.
The fascinating ecology of the estuary includes mangroves and many creatures from mud skippers and crabs, to dragon like monitor lizards. Restoring these mangroves and estuarine vegetation will function as an important fish breeding habitat, provide a natural barrier against cyclones and storms, and play a major role in the cleaning of the Adyar river.
The park educates visitors through a working model of an environmentally sustainable building demonstrating water collection, conservation and treatment, energy efficient alternatives such as solar, bio-gas and wind, waste management techniques as well as showing options for eco-friendly building materials. The use of non-conventional energy is demonstrated in a practical way for visitors, especially children to see how energy is produced by sunlight, wind and bio-mass. The bioresource centre illustrates the uses of plants and their relationship to human kind through an interesting and fun display.