CHENNAI: The abandoned boating jetties built along the Cooum in the early 1970s may soon become nothing more than a piece of memory, not featuring in the current Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Plan. For the time that it remains to stand, it will simply serve as a reminder of the waste of public funds, say experts.
It is reliably learnt that no funds have been allocated for the preservation or restoration of these jetties, at least in the ongoing phase of the restoration project. The riverfront development proposal mainly focuses on the development of parks and walkways.
As part of the Cooum improvement scheme from 1967 until 1973, a sand pump and regulator have constructed along with the jetties at a cost of Rs 2.2 crore. According to PWD sources, there are six jetties in place as of today along the Cooum, including one near Spurtank road, another two near Harris bridge and near Periyar bridge.
However, historians are of the view that the attempts to revive boating were a failure even during the time when the jetties were constructed. The prospect of boating along the Cooum had seemed within reach thanks to a famous photograph of former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi enjoying a boat ride along with his Cabinet colleagues. However, historian Venkatesh Ramakrishnan said that it was conveniently kept from the public that the boat was in the part of the river that had tidal effect.
“After the photograph, people had imagined boating along the entire Cooum. Boats need to have some depth for the hull which is never the case with the Cooum. It will only have water up to Chintadripet since the tidal effect is only up to there,” he said.
The lack of depth was such that there were even references to students of Women’s Christian College wading across the Cooum to get to Spurtank Road in the 1930s, he added. According to him, any photograph of a boat on the Cooum was, in fact, taken in the Buckingham canal. Historian V Sriram said, “The attempt to build a boating facility during Karunanidhi’s time did not take off. They did not even run the boats for a year.”