Frothing Cooum has Chennai residents fuming

Cooum river

We have all seen and read about the Bellandur lake in Bengaluru that froths and catches fire due to a high concentration of pollutants. The days are not far when the Cooum river, running along Anna Nagar, does that.

In a recent photo and investigation by ‘News Today,’ the Cooum river was seen spewing froth at many places in and around Anna Nagar and Koyambedu. During an inspection at night, we found lorries letting out untreated sewage, collected from septic tanks, directly into the river.

Arul, an angry resident of Bharathi Nagar along the banks of the Cooum, said, ‘”The blackish grey water and the foam gives out a stronger than usual stench. It’s unbearable. At night, we see more plastic rubbish floating down. This could only mean that something fishy is happening upstream.’”

Residents living close to the Cooum banks have also complained many times of construction debris being dumped on the banks that restrict water flow. “This is being done silently on the one side, while on the other hand, we see the government spending thousands of crores and taking steps to reclaim the river from encroachment,” they say.

A recent report said more than 86,000 tonnes of construction debris has been found dumped along the river. In addition, municipal solid waste amounts to 18,144 tonnes.

Official response

When ‘News Today‘ contacted the Chennai Corporation regarding the issue, an official said steps were being taken to prevent such illegal activities. ‘A separating wall has been constructed at many places to prevent access for lorries to the river. But still, they find a way around it.’

He added that Chennai Metrowater has begun carrying out preliminary works to construct modular sewage treatment plants along the river as part of the ambitious Integrated Cooum River Eco-restoration Project.

Four modular sewage treatment plants (STPs) of smaller capacity have been planned in different parts of the city to intercept raw sewage released into the river and treat it,’ he explained.

In the neighbourhood, a 1.2 mld (million litres a day) plant is proposed to be built at Maduravoyal. The project to construct the plants have been on paper for many years. Encroachment removal, resistance from residents on the alignment of the pipeline, poor response to the tenders and issues with the contractors were cited as reasons for the delay. Work in places like NSK Nagar, Mehta Nagar and South Cooum Road are awaiting the clearing of encroachments, sources said.

A Harsha Vardhan