CHENNAI: If all goes well with the proposed project of Cooum beautification, the scenes of 1970s, when the water-body was at its beauty best, would be recreated. The Chennai Corporation, on its part, is ready with a slew of plans to beautify the land along the banks of Cooum.
The work, in coordination with the Public Works Department (PWD), will begin from St. Andrew’s Bridge. “PWD would help us in retrieving encroached lands and our job is to make sure the place becomes lush and scenic,” Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni says. With the Elevated Expressway project also on the anvil, the Corporation makes sure a thorough consultation with all departments is done before beginning the beautification work.
The depiction of the Corporation’s proposal promises a complete makeover to the waterbody. If one has to go by the pictures, the river would be bordered with lush trees and the shaded area would be extended to several metres. Seeking help from Horticulture Department and also from private consultants, the Corporation, is all set to doll up the river banks. The State government’s plan to add entertainment options such as boat jetties in the 30-metre wide river channel, in lines with the pleasure boat ride that was launched in 1973, would follow the beautification. The attempt to bring the ailing river back to life has sparked hopes among residents. Hemachandra Rao, a philatelist, who has taken boat ride on Buckingham canal, recalls the times when the rides in Cooum were a luxury. “Though it was for a short time, it was such a hit among people. An old lady once told me she used to pick up pebbles from the riverbed of Cooum. The water had been so crystal clear,” he says.
Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Head of the Department of Biotechnology, The New College, says the effluent discharge into the Cooum must be sealed and a sustainable solution to prevent any illegal sewage discharge should be worked out.
“The river mouth which is the first victim to the pollution must be constantly dredged. Small decentralised sewage treatment plants could be placed in the parks that would treat residential sewage discharge.”
Lamenting the present state of the Cooum, Rajendra Panickar, a 70-year-old resident of Chetpet, says: “I had once seen the river in its purest form. We have a good opportunity to restore the river that would otherwise disappear altogether.”