Restoration of rivers in Chennai awaits funds, coastal regulation zone clearance

Officials say effort is underfunded with only Rs 642 cr allocated against requirement of Rs 1,291 cr
An aerial view of Adyar river and the structures along its banks | Ashwin Prasath
An aerial view of Adyar river and the structures along its banks | Ashwin Prasath

CHENNAI: Due to a lack of funds and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, restoration of the Adyar and Cooum rivers remains pending. Under the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust funds, 56 short-term sub-projects were initiated on the Adyar (at a cost of Rs 555.46 crore), and work estimated to cost Rs 735.8 crore was underway on the Cooum, a senior Water Resources Department (WRD) official said.

The work included desilting, river-mouth opening, waste removal and management, fencing, plantation, setting up of treatment plants, resettlement and rehabilitation of affected families, setting up of parks, and beautification.

“Opening of the Adyar river mouth has been completed in five places, and we (WRD) are waiting for CRZ clearance for two more points,” the official said, adding that a detailed project report was prepared for restoration of the Adyar river and its tributaries as a part of the flood mitigation project for Kancheepuram district.

Similarly, the WRD has completed a few restoration projects on the Cooum, and is awaiting CRZ approval for the rest, the official said. Another official added that of the Rs 1,291.26 crore required for restoration of the Adyar and Cooum, only Rs 642.25 crore has been allocated by the State government.

WRD officials identified 14,257 affected families in 60 habitations in the Cooum river basin and relocated 13,256 families from 52 habitations till August 31. Steps were taken to relocate the remaining families. “Of the 9,539 encroachments on the Adyar, we restored only 4,462 spots,” an official said.

The official added that the rivers can’t be restored unless encroachments are removed, but though work was initiated, the officials could not progress due to political pressure and court cases. However, he was confident that once the government allocates funds, the pending work will be completed.

S Prasath, a resident of Medavakkam, said that during the monsoon, the Adyar and Cooum are critical for draining rainwater, but have been polluted due to urbanisation. The government has failed to restore the rivers for many years, he said.

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