Time was when the Noyyal River from the Nilgiris was a lifeline to hundreds of habitations, meeting the water needs and irrigating thousands of acres on its 160 km long journey.
When the river became nearly extinct...
During the years 2001 to 2003, Coimbatore and its surroundings suffered successive monsoon failures. Lakes dried, the river thinned down to a trickle, mindless discharge of effluents from industrial units further polluted this waterway and ground water depleted fast by ever deepening borewells.
Six progressive business leaders joined hands to tide over the crisis. Siruthuli’s launch was a game-changer in arresting the decay, rejuvenating the water sources.
Vanitha Mohan, Managing Trustee explained how this spectacular change was brought about. “We analysed the problem in depth and drew a detailed action plan to construct check dams and conserve water in the nine tanks located along the river. Seven of these have been desilted covering over 1000 acres of tank bed area and strengthening bunds for a length of over 21 kilometres.”
She elaborated: “over 34 streams feed the Noyyal River. With encroachments, these were abandoned. So was the case with lakes and ponds. We rescued many of these lakes.”
At the base of these initiatives were a handful of sensitive business leaders who mobilised the community and accessed government’s help. Support was received from the highest dignitaries like former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. From a trickle, it turned into a mass movement.
Vanitha pointed to the horizons of Siruthuli getting expanded. Aforestation received attention: over half a million trees have so far been planted. Waste management has been focussed. Source segregation of waste is now widely accepted. The imaginative effort and involvement of school children as well as college students has helped spread consciousness on a clean environment.
Vanitha assures: “this can be done anywhere. All it needs is the citizens to be united as a community, doing it as a collective effort. People should understand the danger of water becoming scarce.”
On the lines of Siruthuli
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa mandated rain water harvesting after the state suffered extensive drought during 2001-03. It proved to be an outstanding effort. In her current term as chief minister, her government is constructing another large water reservoir to meet the needs of Chennai metro. On the lines of Noyyal rejuvenation, There is hope for similar effort to revitalise the Cooum, Adyar and the Buckingham Canal. These were once clean water ways. . With human neglect, these have turned into mass sewerages. Major metros across the world tame their river and turn them to precious waterways and tourist paradises. Siruthuli’s success gives the hope for Chennai paying such attention to beautify its once precious gifts of nature.