Saturday, 22 April 2017

It's not funny, but traditional, yet modern

A few years back, the government of California tried a novel method to avoid drought that persisted for over four years in its major city, Los Angeles.

The method which was acclaimed to be the most successful method at the time was to create an artificial thermal blanket over lake 'Los Angeles Reservoir'. This was done by releasing 96 million shade balls (black rubber balls) to control evaporation of water to put an end to the drought.

Sellur K Raju placing thermocol on water surface at Vaigai reservoir - Source: TNIE

But, when a similar method was attempted by a politician of Tamil Nadu, the entire social media went crazy. Sellur K Raju, Minister of Cooperatives Society Department, inaugurated this new method of covering the reservoir of the Vaigai river to control evaporation.

Regarding this, I had a conversation with a senior professor from Anna University's Centre for Water Resources, who said, "This could seem to be a very funny method, but it has been practised across the world in various formats. These shade balls are till now used to protect water from evaporating and that is what he tried to replicate in Tamil Nadu."

The professor further pointed out that the only fault here made is implementing that technique in a dynamic water body which moved the thermocol layers ashore. "However, this method could be successful if it is  tried in stagnant water of smaller water bodies like lakes and tanks," he added.

Californian government officials releasing shade balls over Los Angeles Reservoir - Source: Shutterstock

However, when these shade balls were used in Los Angeles, there were some drawbacks too. According to a report by Daily Mail,

hydrologists said that, the black rubber spheres could simply fuel the amount of bacteria in the water, ultimately heading to taps and showers in people's homes. "The black spheres form a thermal blanket which provides a new surface area for bacteria to breed," criticised a water quality analyst from Los Angeles at that time.

But, for this, Tamils have been following a natural method for over 2,000 years, according to Tamil linguists. V N Somasundaram, a Tamil enthusiast and writer enlightened, "Tamil emperors, mainly Cholas and Pandyas, were so strong in water management. They had a number of natural methods to control evaporation by covering lakes and tanks too". He said Sangam literature shows evidences of usage of several water creepers to cover surfaces of water in lakes.

Aagay thamarai spread over water surface of Uyyakondan Canal in Trichy city - Source:

"The well-known neer thamarai or aagaya thamarai (water hyacinth) is used to cover the layer of water in lakes and ponds. This creeper will easily grow over the surface of water in a very short span of time, stopping evaporation. The advantage is that aagaya thamarai does not even require more water to grow," Somasundaram said.

He said this technique has been modernised these days by using rubber or thermocol for immediate solution. "Even these water creepers are nowadays considered as unwanted vegetation and are removed by civic body officials", Somasundaram added.

Sellur Raju's attempt is appreciable but the technicalities in implementation of the Rs 10 lakh worth project should have been taken care with more seriousness. Unfortunately, this as usual has now turned out to be a concept of trolling and meme making in the social media.

Nothing here for me to say more than quoting Tiruvalluvar.

"எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினும் அப்பொருள்
மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்ப தறிவு"

குறள் 423: அறிவுடமை

"Wisdom is in deep inquiry of words and intentions
Not in trusting the lips that may utter for deception"

Couplet 423: Wisdom

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, April 22, 2017

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