In a first-time initiative, WRD blocks waterway at 2 locations for easier clearing of floating waste

The small wooden bridges built across the Cooum river near Island Grounds for the convenience of visitors making their way to the exhibition area, have begun to pose fresh problems to the already polluted river. Floating waste accumulates from areas upstream, gets trapped beneath these wooden bridges and obstructs the free flow of water.

In a bid to ensure that the river is clear of such trash during the monsoon, the Water Resources Department has blocked the waterway using a chain link fence in two locations upstream of Island Grounds.

“We have used such a netted fence for the first time to block the floating waste at a specific place in the river. The waste will be removed every day so that the river can flow freely. We had to resort to such emergency measures as the accumulated garbage was posing a problem at just less than one kilometre from the river’s mouth,” said a WRD official.

The stretch where the Cooum river merges with North Buckingham Canal near Chennai Central station and near Muthusamy bridge has been fenced.

Cleaning is easier when the river’s width is between 8 and 12 metres. The river’s width goes up to 20 metres near Island Grounds, and further blockages by the small bridges were hampering the clearing of garbage and silt, the official said.

Float-mounted equipment is being used to clean the waste at various stretches of the river. In the last month, about 250 lorry-loads of silt and garbage have been removed from the 7.4 km stretch of the waterway between Koyambedu and Napier Bridge, where the river meets the sea. From the 2.4 km stretch between Central Station and Napier Bridge alone, about 30 lorry loads have been removed in the past week.

The stretch is filled with waste such as thermocol, packaging material and weeds, and frequent cleaning was essential, the official added. Machines are also engaged daily in clearing the sand bars from the Cooum river’s mouth and maintaining the waterway’s width at 40 metres to avoid flooding, he said.

However, a portion of the river spanning 4.5 km between Egmore and Chetpet remains an eyesore as the department has not taken up desilting due to a tussle with the National Highways Authority of India with regard to the Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated expressway project.

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