Tamil Nadu Rivers Review 2017: Despite Drought; Diversion of Rivers’ Waters To Private Companies

This sixth compilation under Rivers Review series, presents situation of rivers in Tamil Nadu in the year 2017. 

Tamirabarani River Opposition grows against Tamirabarani water to soft drink units In March 2017, various citizen groups submitted petitions to Collector M. Karuankaran, opposing the decision to supply huge quantity of water from the Tamirabarani to beverage manufacturing units in Gangaikondan Industrial area. They also asked the State Government to cancel the agreement with the soft drink manufacturing units on supplying the river water and make sincere efforts to revive the river. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamirabarani-protest-intensifies-tirunelveli/article17457199.ece (The Hindu, 13 March 2017)

This happened after Madras HC on March 01, 2017 has revoked the restriction on Tamirabarani river water supply to soft drink makers.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/madras-high-court-dismisses-pils-against-water-supply-to-pepsi-and-coca-cola/story-tK4x9QIdnvrrovmHXnB7sL.html (Hindustan Times, 2 March 2017)

The temporary ban was imposed in Dec. 2016. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-madras-hc-stops-water-to-coke-pepsi-plants-citing-shortage-2278692 (DNA, 1 Dec. 2016) 

HC allows Coke, Pepsi to use Tamiraparani river waterReversing its Nov 2016 order, the Madras HC on March 01, 2017 allowed Coca Cola and Pepsi to use water from the Tamiraparani river.  Notably, in 2015, several people were injured in clashes during protests over the use of the river water by the companies. In 2005, the Tamil Nadu Govt had granted companies linked to Coca-Cola permission to draw nine lakh litres of water every day and later doubled it. The companies, the petition said, are charged only Rs. 37.50 for every thousand litres.The HCdecision is saddening. https://www.ndtv.com/tamil-nadu-news/coca-cola-pepsi-can-use-water-from-tamirparani-river-in-tamil-nadu-says-madras-high-court-1665238 (NDTV, 2 March 2017)

Plea to stop supply of Thamirabarani water to Pepsi, Coke In April 2017, a petition was filed in the Madurai bench of the Madras HC  seeking to stop supply of the Thamirabarani river water to 15 companies, including Pepsi and Coke, in Tirunelveli district. As per petition the Thamirabarani river caters to the water requirements of people in Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Virudunagar and Ramanathapuram districts and there was water scarcity in reservoirs in Tirunelveli district. However, the supply of water to the 15 companies was going on, affecting water requirements people, the petition said. There is no justification for allowing Coke, Pepsi and other such companies to continue to take water for non essential water intensive activities in times of such drought.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/madras-hc-moved-to-stop-supply-of-thamirabarani-water-to-pepsi-coke-and-13-other-companies/articleshow/58048485.cms (The Times of India, 6 April 2017)

Tamirabarani story of a forgotten river In many ways, the story of the Tamirabarani river symbolises the complex and interconnected story of natural bounty and manmade carelessness that characterise the country’s relationship with its rivers. This is an excellent, evocative piece on river Tamirabarani, its lore, challenges and people working for her. http://www.thehindu.com/society/the-river-that-tamil-nadu-often-forgets/article18919699.ece (The Hindu, 10 June 2017)

Tamirabarani River (Image Source: The Hindu)

Noyyal River SC order gives succour for farmers affected by Noyyal river pollutionA group of farmers, who were victims of pollution of the Noyyal River caused by textile dyeing units, got an interim relief from the Supreme Court after it directed the state government not to recover the compensation given to them temporarily. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/coimbatore/sc-order-gives-succour-for-farmers-affected-by-noyyal-river-pollution/articleshow/62811917.cms%20 (The Times of India, 7 Feb. 2018)

Despite court orders, dyeing units of Tiruppur have poisoned the Noyyal river and thus laid waste vast areas of agricultural land in three districts of Tamil Nadu over a period of three decades writes TS Subramanian. http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/wastelands-of-the-noyyal/article10055526.ece (Front Line, 16 Feb. 2018)

Cauvery River Cauvery delta shrinks by 20%, sediments supply go down by 80% A study spanning almost four decades reveals that climate change and anthropogenic factors are having a detrimental effect on the Cauvery delta region. As per S. Janakrajan who have conducted the study, there is an almost near-unanimity among researchers that the withholding of the river flow upstream through the construction of a series of dams is the fundamental reason for the reduced or no sediment flow downstream, and that delta subsidence [Imminent threat to coastal populations] is in a large measure attributable to these kinds of human intervention in the rivers. He further adds that the Cauvery delta has witnessed a decline of 80% in sediment deposit over the last century.  SANDRP wrote about this phenomenon long back.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/states-granary-losing-substantial-ground/article19286764.ece (The Hindu, 15 July 2017)

Sewage flow into Cauvery Despite the implementation of the underground drainage scheme sanctioned under the National River Conservation Programme (NRCP) mainly aimed at preventing the pollution of the Cauvery a decade ago, sewage from open drains continue to flow into the river. On May 29, 2017, a group of youth of Mela Chinthamani in the city presented a petition to the district authorities during the public grievance meeting, complaining over the sewage flow into the Cauvery from open drains. The sewage flow was not only polluting the river but also posing a health hazard to residents of the locality, they said.  http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/residents-demand-steps-to-check-sewage-flow-into-the-cauvery/article18621292.ece (The Hindu, 30 May 2017)

As Cauvery river dies As crops and farmers die, experts blame a man-made “drought of common sense” for the drying up of Southern India’s Cauvery River, once a lifeline to millions. This article tries to give a comprehensive picture of Cauvery river basin but does not entirely succeed. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/as-a-river-dies-india-could-be-facing-its-greatest-human-9060070 (Channel News Asia, 25 July 2017)

Villagers fighting to protect Cauvery delta from ONGC project It’s hard to miss the police presence at Kathiramangalam, 60km from Thanjavur, where villagers have been agitating since May against the Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC).ONGC has been operating in the region for close to 25 years, exploring the Cauvery delta for oil.The villagers claim the work has contaminated their water, and spoilt their land. ONGC blames “vested interests”.Even as Tamil Nadu faces worst drought of 140 years, farmers are opposing ONGC for polluting their water sources in the Cauvery Delta. http://www.livemint.com/Industry/MbvHoqIMh45Kxc05pbM1nK/Why-is-Tamil-Nadus-Cauvery-Delta-fighting-against-ONGC.html (Live Mint, 3 Aug. 2017)

The villagers claim ONGC’s work has contaminated their water, and spoilt their land. ONGC blames “vested interests”. Photo: Dharani Thangavelu/Mint
The villagers claim ONGC’s work has contaminated their water, and spoilt their land. ONGC blames “vested interests”. Photo: Dharani Thangavelu/Mint

Dry Cauvery: Artificial bathing facility for devotees There was absolutely no water in the Cauvery in 2017. It looked completely dry due to unprecedented drought. Given the ‘Aadi Perukku’ in which thousands of newly wedded couples flock to riverbed to perform special pujas to the river, the administration dug two bore-wells in the river bed at AmmaMandapam to pump out water so as to enable the devotees take a bath. After artificial Punya in Godavari by borewells as the river goes completely dry. What a sad irony .http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/artificial-bathing-facility-for-devotees/article19412831.ece (The Hindu, 3 Aug. 2017)

Arrangements were made at the Amma Mandapam bathing ghat in Srirangam for ‘Aadi Perukku.’  (Image Source: The Hindu)

Kaveri Sankramana or Tula Sankramana Amazing write up on Cauvery on this auspicious day from Vishwanath Srikantaiah: The spring at Tala Cauvery, the birth place of the DakshinaGange, will well up and as it is believed at an auspicious time and a mighty river will start to flow. If you bathe in these springs or touch the holy waters you attain moksha and are released from the burden of life and death cycles. The holy date was on the 17thof Oct 2017.  In the rice bowl of Thanjavur , if the early monsoon the rains fail, a great cry and prayer goes up in the land and it says Mercara, Mercarfor the farmers of the delta pray for rain not in their place but in the source of the river that will feed and nurture their land and their fields. Such was the bond between the delta and the head reaches now torn asunder by linguistic states. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/1821008171260181 (Facebook, 17 Oct. 2017)

Cauvery river water carries highest level of chemicals In Dec. 2017, a Govt funded Anna University study found that Cauvery, one of India’s major rivers, carries the highest level of toxins despite having lowest discharge into the sea. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/cauvery-river-water-carries-highest-level-chemicals-india-anna-uni-study-73609 (The News Minute, 23 Dec. 2017)

Tungabhadra River Otters in Tungabhadra river facing problems Nisarg Prakash State of Tungabhadra river in the Otter Conservation Reserve and the state of Otters, Turtles, Muggers and other biodiversity and the threats they face, including the dam in the upstream and water hyacinth all around. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-otters-of-hampi-have-a-new-conservation-reserve-but-they-also-face-a-new-threat/article22836207.ece (The Hindu, 26 Feb. 2018)

The otters are a highly adaptable species.  (Photo Credit: Kalyan Varma, The Hindu)

Cooum River Cooum from a holy river to sewer carrierOne of the shortest rivers to drain into the Bay of Bengal, the Cooum is now a local synonym for an open sewer and is generally considered to be beyond the realms of redemption. Though pollution is a huge concern today, the Cooum stopped flowing mainly due to diversion of water for municipal supply. This uncovers many cultural issues related to river Cooum in Chennai. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/muck-tale-how-cooum-lost-its-holy-status (India Water Portal, 17 April 2017)

The Cooum as it flows through Chennai today.
Cooum River (Image Source: India Water Portal)

Cooum: A concretised river In 2009, inspired by Singapore model, then State Govt. launched an ambitious project to clean and restore the Cooum river. 8 years later and after close to Rs 3,000 crore was sanctioned in phases, the project shoved into the cold storage and revived intermittently, has headed nowhere. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/after-3000cr-cooum-concretised-waterway/articleshow/59012473.cms (The Times of India, 6 June 2017)

Cooum river restoration project cleared In July 2017, MoEF cleared the Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project, covering a stretch of 9.6km between the mouth of the river and Chetpet Railway Bridge. However, a few experts, who have been involved in mapping the historical significance of the river and thereby bring the focus on restoring it, feel that there are several issues that need to be addressed to ensure that this project doesn’t fail like the other similar attempts in the past. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/cooum-restoration-will-chennai-soon-see-the-river-restored-to-its-pristine-glory/articleshow/59573646.cms (The Times of India, 13 July 2017)

Image result for After 3,000cr, Cooum concretised waterway

Adyar River Adyar desilting to stop airport flood Ahead of the northeast monsoon, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has started work to prevent a repeat of the 2015 floods which inundated the runway, taxiways and aircraft parking stands at the city airport. A series of checks are being conducted as the airport is located in an area through which rainwater from southern and eastern neighbourhoods flows into the Adyar river via drains crisscrossing the airport. It was these drains along with the river that caused the flooding.
The AAI would also be clearing garbage and plastic that had choked the river 500 metres upstream and downstream from the runway bridge. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/adyar-desilting-to-stop-airport-flood/articleshow/60999272.cms (The Times of India, 9 Oct. 2017)

Flood in polluted river cause groundwater pollution A new study by Anna University has pointed out that flooding in polluted rivers has the potential to make groundwater unsafe for human use.Researchers from the university collected water samples from 17 locations in December 2015 and April 2016 along polluted Adyar river.  The results showed that the heavy-metal concentration and microbial load in groundwater samples were high. vhttps://thewire.in/193899/polluted-river-floods-groundwater-becomes-polluted/ (The Wire, 3 Nov. 2017)

‘Clear encroachments from water channel on Medavakkam Main Road’ Residents of Madipakkam have appealed to the Water Resources Department (WRD) to have encroachments on a rainwater channel removed. They also want the channel to be widened. Due to encroachment and dumping of garbage, the width of the channel has shrunk to 40ft from 80ft.” Several representations to the WRD to remove encroachments on the channel and to widen it have gone in vain.

Excess rainwater from the Keezhkattalai lake must flow through a channel, located on Medavakkam Main Road and Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam 200ft Radial Road, Eechangadu, before flowing into the Pallikaranai Marsh. However, as the long channel has been encroached upon and is choked with garbage, the rainwater ends up flooding Madipakkam and nearby areas, instead of flowing into the marsh. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/clear-encroachments-from-water-channel-on-medavakkam-main-road/article22704625.ece(The Hindu, 9 Feb. 2018)

Chennai’s struggle with segregation India Water Portal report on how inefficient solid waste management results in waste piles that contribute to urban flooding in Chennai. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/chennais-struggle-segregation (India Water Portal 8 Nov. 2017)

Perungudi dump yard chokes the Pallikaranai marshland.
Perungudi dump yard chokes the Pallikaranai marshland. (Image Source: India Water Portal)

Vaigai River Farmers protest against diversion of Vaigai water to private firms As per Madurai District Farmers’ Association, the Rajshree Sugars and Chemicals Limited (RSCL) and Tata Coffee, both located near the Vaigai dam were using more than 12 lakh litres of water from the Vaigai dam at a time when the entire district was staring at drinking water crisis. The farmers body on March 11, 2017 have demanded to stop water supplies to these two companies immediately considering the acute water shortage. Responding to the farmers at the meeting, PWD officials, however, said that the water provided to the two companies had now been reduced to around 6 lakh litres per day. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/supply-to-private-firms/article17520937.ece (The Hindu, 17 March 2017)

Dry Vaigai Dam (Image Source: The Hindu)

Unreated sewage water stagnating in Vaigai Residents of at least six villages of Ilamanur, Salaikudiyuruppu, Ramala Nagar, Melakottai, Mayapuram and Thillainayagapuram located on the bank of Vaigai have complained that they faced serious health hazards and water pollution as ‘treated sewage’ let out by the Ramanathapuram Municipality remained stagnant in the river for about 8 km and for more than 2 years.

Sewage water stagnating in the Vaigai near Melakottai.  (Image Source: The Hindu)

When the municipality launched the ₹31.51-crore Underground Sewerage System (UGSS) in July 2013, the local people were assured that the sewage would be let into the Vaigai only after treatment at the STP built at Kazhgoorani and they could even use the treated water for agriculture purpose. Denying the charge Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage (TWAD) Board said that the Modified Activated Sludge Process (MASP) system based STP, ran to its full capacity of 4.5 MLD. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/villagers-allegation/article21381090.ece (The Hindu, 9 Dec. 2017)

Bhavani River Water from River Bhavani no longer safe for consumptionA 3 year-long study by WWF underlined that water from River Bhavani was no longer safe for consumption. The study also said that River Kallar was also in a bad state due to sewage pollution fromCoonoor town. The Bhavaniwas polluted even in Mettupalayam. Pollution from the Kallar and Mettupalayam and ill-conceived hydropower projects made its waters unsafe for use. Mettupalayam generated 6 to 8 MLD of domestic sewage, which was being discharged untreated into the river. Pollution was further exacerbated by two hydel dams (10 MW each), recently built both upstream and downstream, converting the entire river stretch into a stagnant cesspool. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/may/04/water-from-river-bhavani-no-longer-safe-for-consumption-wwf-report-1600807.html (The New Indian Express, 4 May 2017)

Pykara River 1 lakh fine imposed on Sterling Biotech for polluting Pykara In Nov. 2017, the Nilgiris district administration imposed a fine of Rs. 1 lakh on a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, Sterling Biotech, for releasing effluents into the Pykara Dam. It also issued notices to the company and directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to monitor pollution levels in the dam. This is a welcome step the company appears to be a serial polluter of Pykara dam thus causing catastrophic effects on wildlife and residents in the Sigur plateau living on the fringes of the Singara and Moyar River.http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/rs-1-lakh-fine-imposed-on-sterling-biotech-for-polluting-pykara/article19958879.ece (The Hindu, 1 Nov. 2017)

Polluted water flowing at the mouth of Pykara Lake at Koil Mund, near Udhagamandalam. (Image Source: The Hindu)

Kosathalaiyar River TANGECO demolishes encroachment In Nov. 2017 after 8 months of campaigning by fishers from Kaattukuppam, Mugatwarakuppam, EnnoreKuppam andSivanpadaiKuppam , MoEF ordered Tamil Nadu Generation And Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGECO)to remove encroachment across the Kosasthalaiyar River. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/tangedco-begins-demolishing-road-across-kosasthalaiyar/article19988939.ece (The Hindu, 6 Nov. 2017)

Image Source: The Hindu

Madurai Water Channel Massive plastic waste flows in storm water drain A stormwater drain flowing through Kannanendhal (Ward 25)in Thiruppalai, North Madurai is chocked with garbage. This shows how massive amount of plastic waste is reaching our rivers. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/plastic-flows-in-storm-water-drain/article22284499.ece (The Hindu, 27 December 2017)

A stormwater drain that flows through Kannanendhal (Ward 25) is chocked with garbage. (Photo Credit: G. Moorthy, The Hindu)

Save Ennore Creek Time to change the course Nityanand and TM Krishna are brilliant about Chennai’s defining element (water) it is hurling from one crisis to another and its death wish: “In June, the State government conceded the Government of India-owned Kamarajar Port Ltd’s (KPL) request to divert 1,000 acres of the hydrologically sensitive Ennore wetlands for industrial installations that are best built on dry land. The proposal is pending Central government clearance. If permitted, KPL’s dream will turn out to be Chennai’s worst nightmare, far worse than the 2015 floods.” http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/time-to-change-course/article19366014.ece (The Hindu, 27 July 2017)

Citizens come out to protect Ennore creek  On Oct. 28, 2017, over 250 residents along with environmentalists, activists and Civil Societies formed a human chain at Elliot’s beach on Oct 28, evening asking State Govt to protect the wetlands, rivers, environment in Ennore creek area from wilful destruction of govt agencies and industries. From kids to senior citizens – who were holding placards that explain the sorry state of Ennore Creek. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/residents-chennai-form-human-chain-save-ennore-creek-70724 (The News Minute, 29 Oct. 2017)

As per this report, the industrial effluents from the thermal power stations here and domestic sewage from North Chennai have killed various fish species. More than 1000 acres of Kosasthalaiyar River’s backwaters have already been lost due to the deposition of fly ash by the Tangedco units. http://chennai.citizenmatters.in/chennai-human-chain-ennore-creek-encroachment-2862 (Citizen Matters, 30 Oct. 2017)

‘Fly ash is harming creek ecology’ An expert study commissioned by the NGT found that industrial activity, particularly coal fly ash pollution emanating from ash conveyance, storage and impounding structures have drastically altered the hydrology, ecology and topography of the Ennore creek. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/fly-ash-is-harming-creek-ecology/article21830288.ece (The Hindu, 28 Dec. 2017)

Jal Satyagrah to save Ennore creek In Jan. 2018, in a remarkable protest echoing urgent need for protection of rivers, fisherfolk of Kosasthalai River on 03 Jan. 2018, launched a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ against Kamarajar Port project. The proposal would divert 1000 acres of creek area. It mainly comprises of river, wetlands, marshy areas on which fisher community depend for livelihood. https://www.oneindia.com/india/chennai-fisherfolk-stage-jal-satyagraha-to-save-ennore-creek-2613088.html (One India, 04 Jan. 2018)

As per another news report more than 1100 acres of the Ennore Creek consisting of salt pans and Mangroves have already been converted into industrial infrastructure by various govt & private industries leading to an intense pollution of Kosasthalaiyar River.http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2018/jan/04/tamil-nadu-fishermen-protest-as-kosasthalaiyar-pollution-put-them-in-waist-deep-trouble-1744077.html (The News Indian Express, 04 Jan. 2018)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

You may also like to see Rivers Review 2017 for other Indian States 

North India Rivers Review 2017: Pollution Poisoning Lifelines

Maharashtra Rivers Review 2017: Multi-colored Rivers!

West India Rivers Review 2017: Govts, Industries Destroy Rivers

South India Rivers Review 2017: More Water for Cities from Drying Rivers

Kerala Rivers Review 2017 : Government Efforts Fail To Protect Rivers

East India Rivers Review 2017

North East India Rivers Review 2017: Agenda behind Brahmaputra & Barak Fesitvals won’t Help the Rivers

Positive Rivers Stories 2017: Citizens Reconnecting with Rivers

India Rivers Studies 2017: Rivers Succumbing To Dams, Pollution & Climate Change 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.