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Source:   Express buzz City   : Chennai Published On   05-12-2009  



THE State government on Thursday decided to establish Chennai River Authority under Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin to clean up Cooum and other rivers in the city. The decision came after Stalin and government officials who visited Singapore recently to study its river restoration project explained the issues involved in the restoration of Cooum to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.

Ministers for Slum Clearance and Tourism, Subha Thangavelan and N Suresh Rajan, Chief Secretary K S Sripathi and Secretaries of the departments that would be involved in the project would function as members of the Authority.

Environmental issues that led to the present condition of Cooum river and the measures required to set it right were explained to the Chief Minister. He was also briefed about the plans to be evolved for cleaning up the entire 65-km stretch of Cooum river.

Timeline 1991: Seven Trent, a consultancy firm, was commissioned to look at ways to improve the water courses in the city 1994: A study by Mott MacDonald proposed projects worth Rs 34.8 crore to improve the condition of Cooum 1998: River improvement project launched; Rs 19 crore earmarked for improving the quality of Cooum water 2000: Chennai City River Conservation Project launched with an outlay of Rs 720 crore 2008: State Government announces World Bank aid will be sought to clean the river

THE Tamil Nadu Government on Thursday announced a separate `Chennai River Authority' (CRA) to clean up the Cooum and other waterways of the city such as the Adyar River with the sparkling Singapore River as their inspiration and model. The clean-up effort, however, has had a long history of failed attempts in Chennai.

As early as 1967, a clean Cooum project was launched by the then Chief Minister C N Annadurai at a cost of Rs 118 lakh. Post this; Chief Minister M Karunanidhi launched a boat service in 1973, which ended abruptly . The boat jetties serve as reminders of the unrealised dream of Arignar Anna and Karunanidhi to see `Cooum beautified as the Thames of London.' With rapid urbanisation and accompanied pollution, Cooum and other rivers in the city became vulnerable to floods besides being reservoirs of filth. In 1976, there was a massive flood in the city , affecting the Adyar River and the Cooum. A panel headed by engineer P Sivalingam gave its recommendations for prevention of damages from floods The Sivalingam panel was not the first to go into the question of why and how the waterways were hit. Following the devastating floods of 1943, the British government appointed an engineer A R Venkatachary , and on the basis of his report `improved' the Cooum and installed a pump at the river mouth for removal of sand bars.

The Public Works Department Nucleus Cell Report of 1980, Madras Metro Flood Relief and Storm Water Drainage Master Plan Study made in 1993 and the Storm Water Drainage Master Plan for Madras City were some of the other studies done to clean up the waterways and prevent flooding in the Cooum, Buckingham Canal and Adyar River.

Interestingly, to this day since the Venkatachary report of 1943, formation of sand bars is cited as the major reason for the stagnation, silting and pollution in the Cooum. Though Public Works officials say that this problem has `largely' been solved with the construction of walls close to the mouth, there has not been any overall improvement.

Public Works Minister Duraimurugan announced in July that the Cooum would be cleaned up with World Bank funding based on the San Antonio model in Texas, U S A.
Now however, the plan is to restore it based on the model of the revamped Singapore canal. Despite the available sewage treatment facilities, letting of raw, untreated sewage into as many as 125 outfalls into the Cooum River continues unabated. The plan to plug these outfalls (points where sewage is let into the river) under the Chennai River Water Conservation Project failed to take off Their channels and banks re also obstructed with ncroachments in many ocations. Environmental ctivists also allege that ll of the four treatment lants in the city let in ewage that is only par ially treated into the river ources Lack of coordination among various agencies including the Metro Water, Revenue Department and PWD are also part of the problem .


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