She is in my neighbourhood. I’ve seen her almost everyday. Whenever I walk past her, I hear her giggles. She is dark, but anyone who looks at her for the first time will give her a curious second look. I’ve seen her dancing in the rains, jumping in joy.
No… No… No… I don’t have a crush. I hate her… for just one reason… she stinks. She is our Chennai’s identity… She is our Chennai’s pride…
Instead of me talking about her… I would let her talk to you directly. (Change of caps - white cap to black cap)
Dear Toastmasters and guests, I am your stinking Cooum river. I stink because of you.
(Also read: Sweetie ... I hate you)
Origins of the river
I originate from the excess water that gets diverted from the Kesavaram dam. I am from a place called Koovam in Tiruvallur District near Chennai. Though I am 72 Km long, I am the shortest river that drain in to the Bay of Bengal.
During the ancient times, I played a major role in maritime trade between Roman empire, South India and China. If you think I’m boasting, check with those archaeologists who discovered ancient wine jars, Roman and Chinese coins along my banks. I was once called the “Thames of South India”.
There are close to 100 temples along the sides of me. I was once a holy river. People believed that even the sins that were not washed away by my elder sister Ganges could be washed away by bathing in my waters.
State of the river today
I go through the rural areas of Tiruvallur for nearly 40 Km. I am unpolluted, there. In fact, those people use me as a source of drinking water even today. But the moment I enter the Chennai city I lose my virginity… and I become a carrier of sewage, thermocol, plastics and trash. It is not the slum dwellers who pollute me, it is also educated folks like you who dump garbage, sewage and waste on me.
Until the 1950s, I was clean. I was so clean that I had the company of 49 species of fish, who were my friends. But slowly, I started losing my friends. By late 1970s, I had only 21 of them. However, today, all of my friends are dead owing to the highly toxic pollutants that you guys dump into me.
I made multiple attempts to seek justice from Tamilnadu government in the last 50 years. I wanted the government to punish the folks who polluted me and to cleanup and restore my pride. In 1967, C.N Annadurai, kick started a restoration project to clean me up and he allotted Rs.1.9 crores. In 1973, Karunanidhi cleaned me up and even launched a pleasure boat service at a cost of ₹ 2.2 crores. But, none of those programs sustained… People continued to dump garbages, sewage and waste into me and I again got polluted.
Recently, Tamilnadu government has initiated an Integrated Cooum River Restoration Project for Rs. 604.77 crore.
Government has started removal of solid waste from my banks. You know how much solid waste you folks have dumped into me over the years? One lakh tonnes. Chennai City generates nearly 5000 tonnes of waste everyday. Imagine the entire Chennai city dumping all their waste continuously for a month into me… that’s how much solid waste is accumulated in me. So far, about 18,000 tonnes of solid waste has been cleared by the government as part of the restoration project. 55 slums have been identified and nearly 14,000 families zeroed in on for eviction. This project is expected to be completed in another 2 years. I am eagerly looking forward to regain my virginity.
Dear Toastmasters and Guests, Yes… I stink… but, I stink because of you (shouting voice)
“Oh! Oh! Oh… Cooum dear… don’t lose your emotions” (Cap change… black to white)
Friends, knowingly or unknowingly, directly or indirectly, we have spoiled the life of a beautiful girl, Cooum. It is not just Government’s responsibility to keep her clean. We also have our obligations to her. What can we do to help her? Let us refrain from throwing waste or dumping sewage into her. Let us help her to rejenuvate, regenerate and restore to her old glory. Let us take the pledge to make Ms. Smelly as fragrant as Ms. Lilly.