Sunday, September 28, 2008

Boating on the river

Close to its source, it is associated with godliness; two temples to Lord Shiva, going back to the 10th century CE, were built to take advantage of the clear waters of this river. From there the river travels about 65 km in its search for the sea and has had the ill-luck of choosing a path that takes it through the city of Chennai. Entering the city close to Koyambedu, the Cooum which until then followed a reasonably straight course, twists and bends, almost trying to go out of the city; the city goes with it, though - Arumbakkam, Anna Nagar, Aminjikarai, Nungambakkam, Chetpet, Egmore, Chindadripet, Park Town - all of them coming up along the Cooum's course for various reasons.

Until about 25-30 years ago, Cooum was pleasant; the tourism department maintained boat houses at various points along the river and they were actually used. Even then, some warning noises were being made. A study in 1975 showed that the number of fish species in the river had dropped to less than half, from 49 in the early fifties, to 21. But nobody cared and the city of Madras continued to pour its filth, sewage and industrial effluents into the Cooum, believing she'd be able to bear all of it and more. Over the past decades, she has given up and is today a stagnant cesspool, an embarrassing reminder of the Chennai-ite's unconcern and a potential health-hazard to anyone who ventures too close to it.

There is hope, however. If you want your voice to be heard in support of reviving the Cooum, please speak up at 'Cooum Subbasin Restoration & Management'; this website is expected to provide updates on the progress of the latest World Bank funded 'IAMWARM' project, specific to the revival of the Cooum. I hope that we will once again see the boat house in this photo filled with people, very soon!



4 comments:

Hilda said...

That is so sad, and I wish you all much luck in restoring the river.

We have a river with the same problem: the Pasig River which runs through a lot of Metro Manila. During the Spanish and American colonial times, it was a beautiful river with parks at the banks, and boats — both for leisure and transportation. Now, I wouldn't want its waters to splash me even a little bit because I might catch something nasty.

Ravindran said...

It has gone beyond redumption.It is a very embarassing sight in chennai and is placed close to central station where the visitors from other states and abroad arrive. THe first impression abt chennai will be formed there.
BY the way r u back to chennai.

babooshka said...

Tis is such an interseting post. When I first viewd the image I thought how much it looked like my own Nature reserve and river. Then I read your comments. I do hope it's cleaned up. It looks like such a beautiful area

Shantaram said...

>> Hilda>> Need the luck! It is a 6 year project and many things can happen in between...

>> Ravindran>> No, will be back in Chennai on the 4th... and I'll keep my eyes averted from the river this time too!

>> Babooshka>> It does have the potential to be something truly amazing - an 18 km waterway through the city...