Rivers in ChennaiChennai also referred to as the Gateway to South India is the capital city of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Two major rivers meander through this vibrant city located along the the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal which are the Cooum River (or Koovam) and the Adyar River.
Cooum River is one of the oldest rivers that are flowing in Chennai which originates from a small sleepy village called Cooum in Tiruvallur district roughly 70kms away from Chennai. It is said that name of the village and that of the river may have been derived from ‘coopam', which means a well or a deep pit from where the water comes. While it is also said the River Cooum is a derivative of the Tamil literature word 'Coovalan' which denotes a person who is a specialist in the field of ground water, well water and stagnant water. At the source of the river two ancient Shiva temples are there, one in Tiruvirkolam and another in IlambaiyanKottur.
These temples have been featured in the Thevaram sung by the Saivite saint Thirugnanasambandar. There is one more temple called the Veerebathrasami temple at Pillayarkuppam, 2 km from Cooum village. Ancient documents states that Salvation can be reached by taking a holy dip in the Cooum River. The length of the river is about 65 km, of which 18 km, fall within the Chennai city limits. The river meanders its way across the city and runs through several neighbourhoods which include Arumbakkam, Amaindhakarai (Aminjikarai), Choolaimedu, Chetpet, Egmore, Chindadripet and Chepauk.
Cooum was one of the major water sources for Chennai in olden Days. It was the source for drinking water, transportation and navigation. Today Cooum River is the most contaminated river in Chennai. Around 1950, Cooum had 49 species of fish and by the late 1970s this was reduced to 21 species. However in today’s date there are no fish in the river owing to highly toxic pollutants found in the river water. The River Cooum once called the Thames of South India is a living example for biodegradation of a natural watercourse. This waterway which was once a fishing river & boat racing ground today is synonymous to waste, toxicity and sewage.
This river has borne the brunt of the city's unplanned explosion and has been affected by the rapid urbanisation and lack of solid waste management. Cooum River is reduced to a drainage course collecting the excess of 75 small tanks of sewers. The water of the Cooum River has dominant amount of sewer and sludge along with heavy traces of metals like Copper. Indiscriminate dumping of industrial and domestic, sand mining, increasing hutments, dumping of wastes and encroachments along the banks has rendered the river useless. Also the river carries the major portion of the storm water drainage from city during the rainy season. Today the river is an “eye sore” to the residents of the city.
Several efforts are undertaken by the government to clean this river. The government has spent a lot of time, effort and resources in the past to clear up the settlements along the banks of the river. Clearing of encroachments along its bank, sealing of sewers which are connected to the Cooum, cleaning up of solid waste dumped along the river, bringing up awareness among the nearby residents regarding the cleaning up of the Cooum River, plugging the sewage outfalls and prevent dumping of garbage are some of the steps taken by the authorities. There are also plans to create river front development such as parks and walkways in urbanised stretches.
The two main rivers are the Cooum River (or Koovam) and the Adyar River. Apart from these two major rivers Kortalaiyar flows through the outside boundary of the city before draining into the Bay of Bengal at Ennore.