Cooum and Adyar rivers and Buckingham Canal to be part of river restoration project

The Cooum river gets yet another shot at a clean-up and about Rs. 10,000 crore to do just that.

Various agencies such as the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust, Chennai Corporation, Metrowater, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board and the Public Works Department met with municipal administration and water supply officials on Wednesday to finalise the contours of the Chennai Waterways Rehabilitation Programme.

The State government is mulling the option of spending Rs. 10,000 crore over a period of 10 years to clean Chennai’s waterways, including the Adyar river and Buckingham Canal. The Cooum will be the central focus of the rehabilitation programme.

More than 700 sewage outfalls in the Cooum were identified a few years ago. But they are yet to be plugged. The number of illegal outfalls has increased considerably.

The rehabilitation programme will cover planning, preventative and intervention measures to protect the health of the city’s waterways and their surroundings.

Designing a sewage treatment system that is sympathetic to the waterway environment is likely to be the priority.

Officials point to the need for at least 12 more sewage treatment plants to cope with the problem of illegal sewage outfalls in the Cooum.

Proposals for sewage treatment in other areas of the metropolitan area will be submitted shortly.

Soft engineering solutions to prevent further degradation of the waterway will be implemented based on studies to assess impact of present and future stream flow, waterway form, and bed and bank condition.

Officials of the Chennai Corporation, at the meeting on Wednesday, proposed in-situ construction of homes for slum residents along the waterways. However, issues pertaining to such initiatives are yet to be sorted out.

More than 44,000 families will have to be resettled. The Slum Clearance Board has built around 12,000 houses in Perumbakkam and Okkiyam Thoraipakkam.

The CRRT, a few years ago, estimated works covering Rs. 2,222 crore for Cooum river rehabilitation. Many projects including boardwalk along the Cooum and eco-park along waterways such as the Adyar are likely to gain momentum. These will based on assessment of flora and fauna along the waterways.

When modifying natural waterways or designing modified waterways to mimic natural ones, attempts will be made to retain the local character by incorporating geomorphic elements.

More than 10 suggestions were made over the past 100 years to help tidal flushing and prevent stagnation of the Cooum. But the 72-km river that starts as a freshwater source in Cooum village turns out to be an eyesore beyond Poonamallee.

The condition of other rivers such as the Adyar is also deteriorating. Around 40 per cent of raw sewage flows into the waterways in Chennai Metropolitan Area.

The government’s new proposal will enable civic infrastructure to prevent raw sewage from entering the city’s waterways by 2023.

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