The Adyar river is something most of us are familiar about. No matter where we travel, we will at some time come across it. It is that big a river and quite a popular one, especially in pop culture. If you’ve watched any Tamil movie of MGR or Shivaji Ganesan, from 60’s or 70’s, you would have at some point come across the river in the backdrop of the scenes. It is that much of a picturesque view. Originating near the Chembarambakkam Lake in the district of Kanchipuram, it is a 42.5 km long river that provides for the estuarine ecosystem of Chennai. It starts from the Malaipattu tank in the village of Manimangalam, which is a part of the Chembarambakkam lake, situated about 15 kilometres to the west of Tambaram in the South of Chennai, and joins the Bay of Bengal at the Adyar Estuary.
History of the river–
Called initially the Vanmiki River, it is one of the earliest waterbodies apart from the Cooum river and the Buckingham Canal. Till the early part of the 50’s and 60’s, the river was widely used for travelling, sightseeing and other recreational boating activities. Travelling in boats used to be a major transport mode, especially during the 40’s in this river. It runs through, Adyar, Kotturpuram, Saidapet, Jafferkhanpet and Manapakkam. During the 1840’s, the Elphinstone bridge, being the first bridge to be constructed in Chennai was built across the river, which connected the South of Madras to Santhome and Mylapore. There was no other bridge along the Adyar river, before it’s construction, except the causeway known as Marmalong Bridge, now called Maramalai Adigalar Bridge. The strip of land on the north bank of the Adyar was one of the principle European areas of residence and fine houses were built on its banks by Company officials in the 18th and early 19th centuries.Unlike now, it used to be one of the most cleanest waters to travel in, which was free from pollution and dumping of chemicals.
Trivia– Manimangalam, where Adyar starts was previously a battlefield, where the Pallavas and Chalukyas had fought, with an aim to capture Kanchi, which is now called Kanchipuram. Another one, the battle of Adyar, happened between the French East India Company men and the Nawab of Arcot’s forces over the St. George Fort.
Adyar River Today–
The river is almost a dead one today, with almost no water or a polluted one. Flowing through the heart of Chennai, they carry dangerous pollutants and sewage. It is considered to be a dead one, as it is incapable of sustaining any form of life, be it aquatic beings or plants. The increase in the pollution level, leads to the depletion of the oxygen levels in the water. Similarly, almost two-thirds of the total sewage that is generated drains into the river, without being treated. Sandbars block their mouth into the sea, which obstructs even the tidal flushing action from the latter.
Fresh water runs through only during the monsoon season, which gets filled by the rain water. There are occurrences, where, due to the heavy rains, the river gets filled up, and the water is released to the other rivers, like how the Chembarambakkam lake was released which in turn, caused the 2015 floods.
Building retaining walls on either side of the river, can prevent instances of garbage dumping into the river. Periodic excavation of waste along the river, also helps in controlling the situation of dumping. Cleaning the river that has been polluted for years, is a challenging one. But with the continued efforts put into clean-ups and educating people on the hazards of river dumping and water conservation, there is a possibility where the Adyar River can return to it’s former glory.