How Chennai’s Adyar River Got Its Mojo Back


How Chennai’s Adyar River Got Its Mojo Back

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Indian cities and their local water bodies don’t have the healthiest of relationships. In Bangalore, the lakes froth with toxic chemicals; in Mumbai, the Mithi River is choked up with decades of refuse; and in Chennai, the situation is not much different for the Adyar and Cooum Rivers. But all hope is not yet lost, as a recent report on progress made by the Chennai River Restoration Trust (CRRT) has found a substantial increase in the water spread of the creek, as well as an increase in the biodiversity of both flora and fauna around the park.

Though it has taken years of hard work from government authorities as well as partnered organisations and citizens’ collectives, the nascent revival of the Adyar River is a sign of hope that nature and modern cities can co-exist.

The latest report on the convalescent health of the Adyar River, by journalist Nina Varghese, covered the multi-pronged approach taken to restoring the river. It wasn’t simply a matter of picking up the litter that was clogging the river and choking the life out of it.

To start with, the CRRT had to relocate and rehabilitate people that lived in slums along the riverbank. Then, to prevent further encroachment, a fence was built along the riverbanks, which also doubled up as a deterrent to those seeking to dump trash in the river. In order to tackle the problem of sewage flowing into the river, CRRT has undertaken the projects of setting up new sewage treatment plants as well as diverting the sewage pipes that empty into the Adyar River.

These long-term measures, along with more immediate steps like de-silting the river bed and planting new saplings, have started to bear fruit. Wildlife has started to return to the once dead river, with various species of aquatic creatures, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals now being identified as living with the Adyar River ecosystem.

Nature is more resilient than most give it credit for, and this latest success story is the latest evidence of that.