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The Siruvani story

Copious flow at Mukthi falls, the major contributor to the Siruvani Reservoir, in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Photo: K. Ananthan

Copious flow at Mukthi falls, the major contributor to the Siruvani Reservoir, in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Photo: K. Ananthan   | Photo Credit: K_Ananthan

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Historian C.R. Elangovan recalls the 40-year struggle it took to bring Siruvani water to the people of Coimbatore.

One hundred and ten — that is the number of water taps that supplied the sweet Siruvani to the people of Coimbatore. It was on April 29, and the year was 1929. “In Race Course there were just six water connections,” says C.R. Elangovan. He has recorded the history of Coimbatore in eight books including Coimbatore Varalaru, Siruvani and Kovaiyum Cinemavum.

People offered flowers and worshipped the tap. It was the lifeline of Coimbatore, he says. It took 40 years for the project to see light. And, it was the entrepreneurial spirit of the visionary C.S. Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar that made it happen. Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar took charge as a member of the Municipal Corporation as a councillor and then became the chairman. “He gave a new lease of life to the proposed government project of generating hydel power from Siruvani and also meets the drinking water requirements of the city. The South Indian Railway Company, a private company entered the project in 1913 and agreed to fund it,” he says.

Later, they dropped out and supported the hydel projects at Kundha and Pycara in The Niligiris. Coimbatore missed the bus and this was not the first time.

The first document available on Siruvani scheme is from a lecture by S.P.Narasimmalu Naidu on August 25, 1889 about his visit to Siruvani Hills and Muthikulam Falls. In 1889, he submitted a proposal to bring the water downwards from Muthikulam Falls to River Noyyal.

“A representative of the Indian National Congress, Narasimmalu Naidu was also a journalist, orator and landlord. A multi-faceted personality, he was keen to do public service. In the course of his treks in the Velliangiri Hills, he had observed that the Muthikulam Falls had abundant water all through the year. He made several trips there. It did not deter him that elephants and tigers roamed freely in the forest. After heavy rains, there was the danger of malaria. And it was leech infested. But he battled it all and conducted a survey,” says Elangovan.

He submitted the proposal to the collector. It was to connect Muthikulam Falls, a perennial source of water with Noyyal to meet the drinking water requirements of the city. They put the project on hold due to lack of funds. Five other drinking projects, using water from River Noyyal bed above Vellalur Anaicut ( 1893), Chithirai Chavadi canal scheme (1900), Muthannan Kulam (1901), new reservoir below Krishnampathy kulam( 1908) and from Sanganur stream and Singanallur tank, turned out to be failures. “There was neither electricity nor any vehicular connectivity from Noyyal to get the water to the city. And, people continued to suffer,” he recounts.

It was Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar’s charisma and his influence in Madras that helped kick-start the project in 1920. “He visited Siruvani hills with the official survey team. The Revised Siruvani scheme was a package of drinking water and hydel power projects. The water from Muthikulam falls, Pattiar, Paambar streams together become the Siruvani River. The project took off in full steam,” says the historian.

They started the construction of a check dam at Siruvani to collect the water and bring the major portion of water down through a tunnel.

Skilled labourers were brought in from Kolar Gold Mines of Karnataka. Though everything went smoothly, heavy rains played havoc. It led to heavy landslides and the entire structure crumbled. But, Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar didn’t give up. After a quick recovery work, the water was brought to the town on April 26, 1929. And, Coimbatore boomed. The sweetness of the water is attributed to the green atmosphere, and the balanced mineral content. “For most part, it travels without any interference from human habitation. So there is no pollution. When Rathinasabapathy Mudaliar died, people placed Siruvani water at his feet and prayed.”

Jeshi is a staff writer for MetroPlus and Melange.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 6:16:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/40year-struggle-to-bring-siruvani-water-to-coimbatore/article7185104.ece

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