As you pass by an artistic arch, made of boulders, with the sign board ‘Tholkappiya Poonga', on Santhome High Road, you can sense a rich biological diverse environment beyond the barriers. The greenery within it, which is visible along the entire stretch on the arterial road, not only beckons visitors but also turns them inquisitive.
The stone figure of a huge pair of snakes near the ticket counter arrest the visitor at the entrance. Beyond that is a huge lizard clinging to a pole. Lifelike are these reptiles that welcome one into the park. The well-laid walkways boast of small stones and rocks carved to look like animals such as monkeys, rabbits, snakes, monitor lizards and cobras.
Kudos to the artists who sculpted those images. On both sides of the walkways green plants and trees rise above the head and a cool breeze soothes one as they walk in the scorching sun.
“The wide number of flora and fauna you see here are characteristic of the climatic regime of the Coromandel Coast,” informs one of the members of the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust. “The plants here have life-cycles that are in sync with the rainfall pattern of the area. Reeds and marshes which are a protective edge habitat support a large number of species such as Calamus rotang, Cyperus articulus and so on. To provide a habitat for some terrestrial and arboreal species, about 1.37 lakh saplings of shrubs, herbs and tuberous plants have been planted,” he adds.
Insects and birds
One can surely spot amphibians such as green frog, a protected species, the soft shell turtle, also an endangered species and the Brahminy skink in the Poonga. Winged friends such as white breasted kingfisher, plovers and the shikra, can be seen taking to the skies and roosting back in the clean waters early in the morning. The Poonga also boasts of crustaceans such as mud crab and fiddle crab and insects such as butterflies, beetles and different kinds of centipedes.
Grasslands can also be found interspersed with the wetlands. A freshwater pond has been created to support a wide variety of fish and other aquatic animals. Overlooking the main water body are bird-watching points — huts from which visitors can observe the nesting and migratory nature of the birds.
All along the Poonga, colourful pictorial signboards depicting the lifecycle of insects, names and botanical names of trees have been displayed. Interesting information about birds, fish and other species endemic to the region can be obtained from the Interpretation Huts.
An Environmental Education Centre is situated at the heart of the Poonga. One can see well-preserved seeds of Cassia Aariculata ( Aavarum Poo); Erythrina Variegata ( Kalyana Murungai), etc at the centre. The place is also used for conducting educational programmes such as workshops, power point presentations for school and college students.
The nursery sells seedlings of a number of medicinal and indigenous plants.
Certain technologies such as waste water treatment systems, solar and wind energy have also been showcased. A cup anemometer installed near the education centre helps to determine the wind velocity. .
The children area is an interactive one which has a sand pit and an amphitheatre from which they can observe and learn about the environment. The Poonga, as a whole, will serve as a focal point for interactive environmental education and research for students.
Also all the activities at the Poonga are aimed to include people in the restoration and preservation of the ecosystem.
The variety of flora and fauna you see here are characteristic of the climate of the Coromandel Coast