Lake 301 - A Lake in a River
An accessible public space, restoring the city's relationship with its heavily polluted waters
'Lake 301 – a Lake in a River' is like a window into the future, showing that it is possible to restore the city’s relationship with water into a positive one that is beneficial to all citizens and the city as a whole. The project adds a new type of lake to the 300 lakes of Chennai, the Lake 301. Located on the banks of the river Cooum next to Napier bridge in Chennai, it is an insertion of a small amount of naturally purified river water contained within the polluted river itself.
The water is cleaned by helophyte filter plants. A small amount of river water is pumped through several septic tanks and this plant filter, which is also called a constructed wetland. Through this process we filter the river to get back to its original holy and pure state. The water cycle is closed at a small, local scale.
Together with the steps leading towards it, the installation becomes a spot where the deserted river bank is transformed into a place of reflection and meditation about the rivers past and its future. It allows visitors to question and experience what clean urban water could mean to them. It becomes a space where the pressure on the city is relieved and presenting an outlook that the urban body is able to repair itself if united with nature. The project 'Lake 301- a Lake in a River’ wants to restore this relationship temporarily and allow citizens to touch, smell and be next to their river. This renewed contact aims to bring back their imagination, exchange of memories and wishes for the future.
OOZE (Eva Pfannes, Sylvain Hartenberg) & Marjetica Potrč
DAMnedART (as part of Embrace Our Rivers initiative)
Florian Matzner (DE) & Ravi Agarwal (IN)
Lake 301 - Section (© Ooze)
Lake 301 - impression (© Ooze)
Lakes and rivers are the embodiment of Chennai’s ecosystem and identity. Its diverse waters should be at the forefront to question the current state of urban development. The rapid deterioration of the water streams and water bodies should be at the centre of all discussions establishing a new paradigm – a balance between manmade city and nature. The lakes and rivers are one of the most vital natural instruments to keep the metabolism of the city alive. The 3 rivers and 300 lakes are an integral part of Chennai’s ecosystem. They are seasonal reservoirs of biodiversity and act as lungs or sponges which absorb and retain water after the rain season. All along the year the water gradually evaporates and leaves fertile soil behind which can be used for local cultivation or stay vacant for the wild flora and fauna to find a refuge. These lakes are also “rain harvesters” replenishing the ground water reserves.
Chennai region: 3 rivers & 300 lakes helping the city to be in balance with nature (© Ooze)
Seasonal Cycle: Chennai Lake Ecology (© Ooze)
Water - a natural resource (photography © 2016 Anna Wit)
Water - a cultural resource
Water is an important part of the “Indian soul”. Rituals and myths related to water are at the centre of people’s daily lives. In former times people were in close relationship with water as a carrying and framing element. It is now getting increasingly difficult, in some instances impossible, to honour and perpetuate this relationship. We are witnessing not only an ecological disaster, but also a cultural fracture which expresses itself in the fundamental shift of behaviour and belief.
River Cooum - Napier Bridge
River Cooum - the river sides
Despite its close proximity to water Chennai faces enormous challenges: encroachment of lakes and natural reserves, “tarmacking” of the ground surface, aggressive urbanisation, solid waste and sewage pollution. The population is generally turning its back to this issue and has a tendency to ignore the problems their city has been experiencing for the past decades. Because of intense pollution levels and smells of the rivers and their adjacent banks, the citizens have abandoned those spaces and lost their memory of what this river really was, namely not a negative space, but a place to get in touch with the elements, a place which regulates and mediate between the urban environment and nature.
Concept for Lake 301 - A lake in a river (© Ooze)
Lake 301 at the 'Embrace our Rivers - DAMned ART' exhibition, February to March 2018 at the Lalit Kala Academi, Chennai (© Ooze)
Whilst crossing Napier bridge visitors discover a small oasis down at the black and opaque Cooum River. Getting closer a foot path and steps lead them through the (deteriorated) river bank towards the installation on the shore. Within a circle of 15m diameter (or smaller) the complete water cycle is laid out to experience the different stages of water purification: a constructed wetland to clean the river water, a submerged heavy-duty inflatable basin that functions as a tank for the purified water and a set of steps making the water body accessible to be touched. The steps invite to rest and contemplate. They create a common place to relax from the stress of the city. Seen in this way the river can change its identity from a common waste land to a common good. The word Poramboku, which means “the commons” in Tamil, returns to its original meaning. The definitive size of the installation can be adjusted (within limits) to the available budget. The context, the steep shore, might make it necessary to adapt the round shape into a more organic one.