A group of enthusiasts who have for the last two years been chronicling the cultural landmarks on the banks of the Cooum River that flows through Chennai, are making the most of the heavy rains in the past two weeks to study further the many aspects of the non-perennial River.
The heavy rainfall Chennai has received over the past two weeks has resulted in heavy flooding in several parts of the city. The areas close to the city’s waterways and the newly developed parts towards the south of city, where real estate has boomed in the last two decades over the city’s water catchment areas, have been most affected by the flooding.
The bigger of the two rivers of Chennai, Cooum, which runs to a total length of approximately 70 kilometres, has been the central topic of a group of enthusiasts who have been running the campaign “The Cooum - a Cultural Mapping” on Facebook for two years now. The group received widespread press during this year’s Madras Week celebration in August.
Over the past few days, active members of the group have been making trips to track the flow of Cooum River from upstream to see it in all its pristine glory as a full-fledged river. In the non-rainy months, the River is hard to track as the flow of water is diminished and the waterways meant for the River within the city carries untreated sewage.
Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, author and one of the administrators of the page, who visited several parts of the River upstream (Cooum originates in Tiruvallur district adjoining Chennai) earlier this week, says such a flow can be witnessed probably once in 20 years or so. (Chennai on an average experiences heavy to very heavy rains once every ten years.)
“It is a sight to behold as you see the River water flow from bank to bank. In many ways, this is a good time to track the entire flow of the River. Sadly, this will be gone within a couple of weeks, and we will be back to the problematic state,” he said in an interview to The News Minute.
The problems facing Cooum River is both geographic and political. There are many unapproved encroachments, educational establishments, housing colonies and industrial units that let out untreated sewage through the year into the water ways. Ramakrishnan points out that the blackish waters reported by the media a week back at the city’s Marina and Besant Nagar beaches was probably the sewage being flushed out because of the increased flow of the Rivers.
Padmapriya Baskaran, who is also a part of the group and is planning to write a book identifying over 140 temples on the banks of River Cooum, said that poor maintenance of the River has also taken some sheen out of its importance in identifying it as a marker for several Chola dynasty temples. “A bulk of the water pollution starts only at the mid-way mark of the River’s 70 km flow,” she added.
Images: Priya Bhaskaran