Located in the Thanjavur district and spread across 564 acres, the lake was responsible for irrigating 6,000 acres of agricultural land. However, due to constant misuse and exploitation by the soil mafia, it did not hold sufficient water.
In November 2018, 31-year-old Nimal Raghavan, a Dubai-based software developer, decided to make a trip to Nadiyam, his native village, which is located in the Cauvery Delta Region. Little did know that that he would be welcomed with the sight of utter destruction left behind by the severe cyclonic storm, Gaja.
Starting with relief work, he ran the viral social media campaign #BounceBackDelta which sourced relief materials such as clothes, groceries, toiletries, tarpaulin sheets, and monetary donations from across the globe to the 90 villages affected by Gaja. He was soon joined by other youngsters in the village for the #DeltaSaplingChallenge which aimed to mitigate the loss of thousands of trees.
While the efforts continued for two months, Nimal realised they couldn’t rely on relief alone. A sustainable solution was required to help the villagers bounce back and prevent farmers from giving up agriculture.While sourcing sapling was certainly the first step, when Nimal and his team travelled across villages and interacted with the farmers, they unanimously lamented about the lack of adequate water resources in the region to sustain farming.
But the challenges were many.
When Nimal’s team started desilting this colossal lake, they only had 11 members in their group. The initial capital they started with was just Rs 20,000, whereas the expenses for renting heavy desilting machinery such went upto Rs 40,000 to 60,000 per day!Although the team saw no restraint from the district administration and the Public Works Department (PWD), sections of elders in Peravurani and nearby areas questioned the group’s capability to pull the project off.“They would discourage us, but as time passed, the youth continued their back-breaking efforts. Moved by their dedication, the inhabitants of Pongadu and Pazhaya Peravurani villages went door-to-door and contributed money amounting to almost 2 lakh. We were moved to tears by this gesture.”
In a short span of 104 days, Nimal and KAIFA desilted approximately 250 acres of the lak e and set up soil boundary walls—four km on one side, 12.5 km on another. They deepened the lake, raised the height of the existing bund by 4-5 metres and also formed and widened a bund on the northern side of the lake.They have now created three islands in the lake and planted 25,000 native saplings that help bring rainfall, maintain conducive atmospheric moisture and improve groundwater levels.
Shedding light on the impact, Nimal says, “As we speak, the lake has reached 70 per cent of its capacity. This was nothing short of a miracle for the people, who had waited for nearly two decades for this development. The rejuvenation of Peravurani will avoid wastage of 150 TMC of water in the delta region and impact more than three lakh lives.”