The petition said Cooum river is now spoilt by filth and pollution and the water quality is considered to be highly toxic

The National Green Tribunal’s Southern Bench has ordered the Chennai Corporation, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Public Works Department (PWD) to take strict action against encroachments along the banks of the Cooum, Buckingham Canal and Adyar river.

The Bench, comprising judicial member P. Jyothimani and expert member G.K. Pandey, said industries discharging untreated effluent are polluting the three rivers.

The tribunal, based on a petition from P. Edwin Wilson of Purasawalkam, has asked the Chennai Corporation, TNPCB and PWD to submit an action-taken report, an action plan and time-frame for restoration of the Cooum river, on August 6.

Mr. Wilson has prayed for the government to prevent pollution and encroachments along the three rivers and stop sand mining in Kosasthalaiyar, Cooum tank in Tiruvallur district, among others.

The petition said Cooum River originates from the surplus course of Cooum tank in Tiruvallur district. A river with historical importance, it is now spoilt by filth and pollution and the water quality is considered to be highly toxic and unfit for consumption. “Before the 1960s, the river was clean. Now it is a large gutter,” said the petition.

Over the years, several projects to clean the Cooum have been launched by the State government. But the condition of the river remains the same. The river is a thriving source for mosquito and other pathogens to breed.

The petitioner said the government had turned a blind eye to the encroachments and illegal dumping of industrial waste into the river, especially in places like Otteri and Pudupet.

He also said the flow of water in the Cooum had been affected by sand mining in the upstream area of the river and its source, including Kosasthalaiyar.

Vijay Pingale, joint commissioner (oaths), who spoke on behalf of the civic body, said necessary steps are being taken to prevent dumping of sewage into stormwater drains and dumping of untreated effluents into the rivers.