Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Our Deputy Chief Minister M.K.Stalin formally announced the inauguration of the River Cooum cleaning up project. This project is aimed at cleaning up the Cooum of all its dirt and sewerage and developing it as the pride of the city much on the lines of how Singapore developed its waterways from an eyesore to a clean river.

While this project is no doubt a critical one necessary for the beautification of the city, one wonders how much progress the project will actually make given the fact that a lot of money has literally gone down the drain in the past without tangible results.

If the previous paragraphs have left you wondering as to when this blog transformed from one being dedicated to heritage to one dealing with civic issues taking digs at various Government actions, let me assure you there is a reason behind the introduction. In the Civil Administration Report of the Madras Municipality for 1871-72, I came across this particular paragraph that caught my attention:

"THE COOUM:This river continues to be in the same insanitary and unsatisfactory conditions as in the former years. The Government expressed their willingness to transfer the river to the Commissioners and to hand over the usual Budget grant for conserving it; but the Municipality were unwilling to accept it on these terms; and proposed that it should either be handed over in a state of proper conservancy, or funds supplied by Government for the Commissioners carrying out the necessary works.

The river Cooum, which ought to be an ornament and a blessing to Madras is now only a source of disease and the receptacle for the sewage for about a third of the population.

An expenditure of 1800 Rupees was incurred by the Government in the removal of the worst of the silt banks in its bed and the raising of the banks with the material taken from it".

From the above extract, it is evident that nothing much has changed.The Cooum has been in this state at least since the 1870s.Its only gotten worse over the years thanks to pollution, mindless dumping of wastage and other human factors. Only thing that has changed is the cost- Rs.1200 crores is the allocation for the current project.

Will this too go down the drain? Lets hope it does not.Instead lets hope that this project succeeds and the Cooum is transformed into "an ornament and blessing to Madras".


  1. Dear Mr Bhatt,

    As a former Chennai-vasi (and Gujarati though I was born and raised in Chennai entirely) it was a serendipitous pleasure to find your blog. As far as the Cooum is concerned, I have been talking to everyone who will listen about a host of new technologies that are available for converting sewage into fuel - there is the very real possibility for actually realizing a profit from the waste, instead of spending money to dispose of it. I wrote to the Dy Cm a long time ago and invited him to visit Texas A and M University when he planned to visit the USA, to see for himself some of the work being done in this area. Unfortunately, his trip was cancelled at the last minute, and the whole plan went nowhere. Hopefully, in the future, someone will take this up and restore our great city and its sad river to a state that it deserves to be in.

    Incidentally, I recall that even until the early 1970s there was some boating activity on the river. After that, of course, the foul smell put an end to all of this. Best wishes!

  2. Dear Sir,

    Thank you very much for visiting my blog and reminding me that I did once start a blog!!! Have not blogged in ages and hopefully your comments will get me back in action..

    Nice to know a fellow Gujarati born and brought up in Madras so passionate about it..

    One thing is sure..no attempts at cleaning up would bear effort unless the slums throughout the banks of the Cooum are removed..am not quite sure the powers in charge would want to disturb such a powerful vote bank with the elections just round the corner!!!