Perungudi Lake Model: Community led Movement in Participatory Resource Management

Location: Perungudi, Chennai

Coordinates: 12.967 (degree North) 80.239 (degree East)

Surface Area: 54,000 sq. ft. (50 ares)

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Perungudi lake as it exists today was formed in the year 2002 as an extension from the Pallikaranai marshland area. Initially the population of the area was around 2000 people at the beginning of lake creation and was used primarily for agricultural activities. Now the population has skyrocketed to 50,000 people who are directly dependent on the lake water for their household water consumption (Jagadisan, 2019). It is now at a prime real estate location that borders the Rajiv Gandhi Salai IT corridor. With an increasing demand for residential areas to accommodate IT population, there is a need for encroachment. However, Perungudi lake still stands as one of the few protected lakes in Chennai that is bordered by compound walls and pathways to attract walkers in its south and east side. (Ambica, Banuraman et. al., 2012). Through initiatives of the local organizations such as Perungudi lake Area Neighbourhood Environmental Transformation (PLANET) Association and Kamaraj Nagar Residents Welfare Association (RWA), the Perungudi lake has become an important cultural and environmental resource.

Change in Demographics:

Perungudi comes under the Tambaram Tehsil in Kancheepuram district. The tehsil had a total agricultural land holding of 2029 hectares out of 3608 hectares (56.2%) in the hands of marginalized farmers during the 1995-96 agricultural census. In the 2015-16 agricultural census the land holding of the marginalized farmers was 455 hectares out of the total 949 hectares of total holding (47.9%) (Annexure 6). This is also reflective of how the land use has changed in Perungudi. As a victim of rapid urbanization, Perungudi area has transformed from a predominantly agricultural area to a residential area. The water that was allocated for agriculture is now being consumed by corporates and employees. The sudden increase in residential places around the lake has given rise to tall lake view apartments, which are devoid of residents most of the time. This unique trend is observed throughout the Old Mahabalipuram road large residential areas (Lakes of India, 2020). This trend of empty apartments around the lake can also slowly erode the solidarity of the residents in preserving the lake. The lake holds significance to the local vendors, cleaners and stores whose economic activities have direct relationship with the social and cultural activities that takes place around the lake. 

Free association of people:

A primary method of praxis in anarchist and communist ideology is something called mutual aid. It is built around the solidarity that people hold for one another along with mutual regard. It is the free association of people that engages them in initiatives that could serve the community at large. Lakes provide tremendous environmental resources and ecological services. They hold the flood water, recharge and restore groundwater and provide fresh water for consumption on top off all the ecosystem that it supports. When governed only by the Public Works department, the lake has been reported to be extremely polluted by sewer discharge from colonies (Annexure 1). However, the active participation of the civilians through mutual association has catalysed the change in the lake. This has also become a popular sight for migratory birds in the recent times (Annexure 2). 

Cultural significance: 

Lake festival is organized every year by the various residents welfare associations around the lake on 26thJanuary. They highlight the importance of maintain the water bodies and how it would be beneficial for all. PLANET association was created for the sole purpose of fulfilling this objective. Walk the lake is an initiative by PLANET on the world water monitoring day to ensure the quality levels at the lake. Successive lake festivals included folk arts and activities and was held in the lesser privileged areas as a means of inclusiveness and providing better access to people.

Change in topography:

Perungudi lake is a newly created water body as an extension from Pallikaranai Marshland. The first satellite image of the lake is shown in the 2002 satellite image from google earth pro and indicates the first stage of development. The previous map indicates the absence of the lake at the place where it is now situated. The current image of the lake does not show any topographical variation which indicates a positive sign towards its conservation.

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(2002)                                                                                     (2021)

Government Aid:

The government in recent times have started focussing on the restoration of water bodies. The effects of 2015 floods, monsoon cyclones, drought and other weather activities has made Chennai vulnerable, especially with regards to water. In 2019, the government allocated 40 crores rupees for the purpose of developing 105 water bodies in Chennai of which Perungudi lake was an Important inclusion (Annexure 4). The formation of PLANET and its initiatives are supported by PWD and local governing bodies through special schemes and permissions. The effective storm drains and water distribution is maintained by PWD.


The concept of mutual aid and participatory civic action are powerful if materialised in reality. Perungudi lake program is one important example. Government can benefit immensely through a participatory governance model that distributes power and responsibility among the people. However, the past misuse of the lake still bears effect on the lake. The pH level is tested to be in normal range, however the levels of chloride, sodium and other micro-nutrients are exorbitantly high and the water is not recommended for direct consumption (Ambica, Banuraman et. al. 2012). This is also reflected on complaints that arises once a while from the resident associations on the poor maintenance of lake water by PWD (Annexure 5).


Sharmila Jagadisan. 2019. “Local People’s Perception and Attitude Towards a Geen City: Case Study of Perungudi, Chennai”. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 238, © 2019 WIT Press, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

A. Ambica, Saritha Banuraman, K. Ilayaraja. 2012. “An Assessment of Groundwater Quality and its Parameters around Perungudi, the southern part of Chennai, India”. International Journal of Engineering Trends and Technology (IJETT), Vol 3 (3, 3).

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