Cleaning Adyar River on a Margali Morning!

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Does that headline sounds different from “Visiting Temple on a Margali(Considered to be Auspicious Tamil Month for early morning worship) Morning”? I will tell you why. When the alarm woke me up at 4:30 AM today morning, I wasn’t able to get up from bed due to severe cold and cough that got accumulated the previous night. My body sounded very tired with slight temperature and I had a thought that I would not be able to join the Adyar bank cleanup planned for this morning beside Surya Nagar Slum in Kotturpuram. Even though the body rested,my mind wasn’t asleep and wanting me to get going for the cleanup event on Adyar Banks. Finally that early morning “Bed to Bathroom Phobia” was won over and I was up around 5 AM and got ready to drive to Kotturpuram.

December breeze was chilling cold outside with empty roads, few early morning risers, few runners and very few cyclists flocking the OMR. I reached Kotturpuram Signal next to Anna Centenary library which was the assemble point and was all set for “Ainthinai-Chennai Trekking Club’s (CTC) 7th Phase of Adyar River bank cleanup beside Surya Nagar Slum” By the time I parked my bullet it was around 5:45 AM and was able to find group of CTC volunteers who were having tea and chatting in the Tea Shop opposite to the signal. We had 7-10 regular volunteers who have been representing themselves for all the cleanups planned after the recent Chennai floods by CTC with few new volunteers who joined the cleanup today. For the next 15 mins we had few more volunteers joining in and we were now a group of 20-25 people. We decided to move to the cleanup point which was approx. 600 Mts away from the signal via Ranjith Road. Reaching the Ferry road end we parked our cars,bikes and cycles on the banks of Mighty River Adyar (?).

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As we got down to get set our cleanup, morning sun was up slowly with dense fog, mixed with smoke from the garbage thrash that was set to fire by the locals.

It all started 5 weeks back when CTC’s founder Peter Van Geit along with CTC volunteers, started the cleaning and rehabilitation efforts at Surya Nagar Slum in Kotturpuram which got devastated by the recent floods as it was located very close to Adyar River bunds. We started to clean up the slum streets from the debris left over and now came till the Banks of Adyar river which got piled up with Polythene Papers, Thermocol, Clothes, House Hold items, Wooden and Leather wastes, Glass wastes, Electronic wastes, Human and Animal waste and what not. The water level on both sides of the river bund raised upto 12 feet high during the floods resulting in huge deposit of garbage debris making an unhealthy appeal of a perennial river with unfit conditions to live and breathe.

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What runs as Spine River of Chennai is the place of dirt and debris breeding mosquitoes and housefly’s. Adyar river is a classic example of how human race have exploited a perennial water source and made it unfit for any living organism to live aside and inside.

Our goal is to clean the 1 km stretch of Adyar river bund aside Surya Nagar Slum making it a model hamlet by deploying dustbins and implanting the cleanliness and nature friendly living among the community people who live there. Today’s cleanup was our 7th such consecutive cleanup effort which we conduct twice on week days. In the ongoing process of cleanup, CTC also has plans to develop a model plan to convert Surya Nagar Slum into a healthy rehabilitation setup ensuring a nature friendly and healthy living.

We had around 40 volunteers by now for whom the gloves and collection bags were distributed. I gave a short brief to the participants on the need, to clean this hamlet and updates on past cleanups. We ventured into the sloppy, dusty and debris filled banks of Adyar to pick up the garbage deposited and to pile it up to dispose it safe. The cleanup started sharp at 6 AM with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

Volunteers picked up the trash debris along the sloppy banks and lifted them up using collection bags to the bund road piling it up. As time passed, the local kids from Surya Nagar Slum joined us followed by their Mothers. This is the vital change we saw from Phase 5 of our clean up. The local community watched us for 4 times, 4 days and 5th time they came and took the gloves and thrash bags, started picking the deposits.This is the impact of change which we wanted to induce among the local community to let know them how important their environment is.

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Some of the volunteers went up, dipped their gloved hands inside the dirty black water and removed the polythene and debris which clogged the drainage water passage. We were able to make way for the stagnated water to flow free letting the drainage channel cleaned up.

Adyar-Cooum: The rivers which irrigated State of Madras and served as mode of transport during early 18th and 19th Century is now filled with debris and black deposits. River banks are considered to be the birth banks of Heritage and so are called as life lines of Human Civilisation. I am sure we all have had a chance to cross Adyar and Cooum Rivers on roads and yes we close our nose to avoid the dirty smell. Have we ventured closer to see how dirtier our Adyar is and more dirtier after the recent floods? The Mighty River equal to Thames of Great Britain has lost all Her purity and pristine due to Rapid Urbanisation and our Rush to so called Development (?!). Even after such devastating floods which over flow the Adyar-Cooum Stretch could not clean up and the water beds remain with dirt and breeding place for mosquitoes with mix of human and animal waste.

Venturing closer to Adyar and dipping the hands into dirt requires high spirits of “Selfless Volunteerism” and such volunteerism is a viral impact as one learns from other and one get inspired of other and inspires rest. That’s how today morning was. It was an ultimate exhibit and feel of high energy with bunch of volunteers who stood by Humanity and Care towards Our Environment.

At 7:30 AM sharp we were able to pile up half truck load of huge garbage debris with high sense of satisfaction and a satisfied feel of contribution towards humanity and environment which incomparable. At the end of today’s cleanup, we washed our hands and grabbed some quick cookie bites and  gathered together for a group snap and clapped hands for our today’s efforts.

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When we left the place we all could feel the thankfulness and gratitude of Surya Nagar people along with the Silent Smile and Thankfulness of Adyar River.

Please do participate in CTC’s efforts to contribute just 90 Mins of your early morning on week-days so that we see the shine and smile of People and Environment.

Be The Change You Want to See In the World – JaiHind !

Photos: AR Dilip Srinivasan





Science Meets Nature & Thus Geometry Restores Green | An effort to restore Arasankazhani Lake

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How about mixing science with nature and geometry to restore green? If this question puzzles you, just go and visit Arasankazhani Lake which is located alongside the roads of Chemmanchery-Perumbakkam region in Chennai.This unique lake is vastly spread water body which is the natural inhabitant of variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles which is diagonally close to Bollineni Hills – The hillock which is declared as protected area and under the control of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) due to its historical importance, evolving the roots to be the ancient living place of Siddhas and Medicinal herbs.

It all started couple of months back when EFI( Environmentalist Foundation of India) team started their efforts to desilt and clean the weeds that got accumulated inside and surrounding the lake. With the support of few local residents in Bollineni Hillside Apartments, the lake was cleaned up by EFI deepening & increasing the water holding area with scientifically built geometrical islands based on the water collection & wind direction. These islands were raised inside the lake area with the mechanism to resist winds separating the silt stagnant to one corner of the lake by instrumenting “Q” shaped islands and creating “G” shaped islands on the other stretch of the lake area to promote and the water home for lake turtles, fishes and tree home for birds.

Arasankazhani Lake – Redefined !

While EFI Team along with the support of local residents completed its first stage, cleaning up the South Western part of the lake raising the islands & strengthening the bunds, Chennai Trekking Club team (CTC) joined hands with EFI to plant saplings along the islands and bunds of the lake.

On Dec 22, 2013, the day dawned with a cool breezy morning when CTC & EFI team members gathered together with a greener goal to plant tree saplings along the geometry landscapes of the lake. Around 7:30 AM, we all loaded down the saplings which were categorically selected as fruit bearing trees, shade providing trees and erosion control trees. While Singapore Berry (Muntingiacalabura) and Blue Berry trees (Vaccinium) were selected for fruit bearing purpose solely to attract bird population to lake, Magilam (Mimusopselengi) & NeerMarathu (Terminaliaarjuna) trees were chosen to promote shades & nesting along with Bamboo (Bambuseae) saplings to control soil erosion along the island bunds. When we lined up all saplings, they looked like small infant babies longing to connect their roots on earth & grow along with the care of Mother Nature.

Green babies lined up – Variety of plant sapling awaiting to be earthed !

EFI team members promoted the event and awareness by conducting road shows at public gathering places in the nearby areas which made some of the local public people to gather around the lake for the morning plantation event. Around 8 AM, CTC team members along with EFI team started to form human chains along the lake bunds and inside water to transport the saplings to be planted to the 2 unique landscaped islands. While some of us were busy in transporting the saplings, the others moved across the island bunds to dug pits to ground the saplings.Some members of the team collected and gathered the manure soil mix along with coconut shells to be used for mulching the planted saplings.

EFI & CTC Team Mixing the Horlicks for Plants – Preparing the Manure Soil !

Our legs started to feel the out-of-comfort zone as we stepped inside the lake and walked towards the islands because of sharp strong stones inside the water that tested our steps. We identified the areas where saplings have to be earthed and made the markings to dug pits. We made our plans to plant the fruit bearing saplings along the upper and middle stretches of the mud islands and bamboos at the lower portion of the island bunds to prevent soil erosion and promote nesting option for the birds.

Happiness Prevails after Planting – Team Members Involving in Plantation !

While some of us were busy in digging pits and transporting tools and manuring materials, innovation made its way in building a floating ferry using old water barrels and bamboos. We built a floating ferry to transport saplings and planting materials which was also used by local kids as a playing ferry after some time. The day proceeded with stronger sun, with every team member in CTC & EFI displaying unlimited enthusiasm in their faces supporting every other member in the plantation activities.

Digging the Plant Pit – Busy at Work Under Hot Sun !

As the plantation activities carried through some of the local residents and kids joined us and stepped inside the waters to join the efforts. It was happiest occasion to see small kids showing greater joy to plant saplings and water them. Every plant was carefully planted on the soil, firming the soil around followed by mulching it with coconut shells to prevent weeds and improved water retention content.

I am New – I will Emerge Strong – A Newly Born Baby Connected to Mother Earth !

Some of the team members engaged themselves in supplying biscuits, tea and juice to keep the hydration levels up thus making the body energy meter high. There was an immense sense of satisfaction and wholehearted joy that emerged among CTC & EFI team members after grounding each and every sapling. The local kids along with CTC & EFI team engaged themselves in sowing neem seeds along the fencing side of the lake.

Legs resting on sharp stones – Walking out-of-comfort zone !

At around 1 PM, we completed planting the saplings across both the islands inside the southwestern part of the lake which are now ready to bear the future fruits of shade,food,nest and most importantly promoting a sustainable biodiversity for the flora and fauna of Arasankazhani region. One of the flagship effort by EFI co-supported by CTC team, we are on the way to create one of the greenest lake eco system which will attract lots of birds & animal species

Innovation @ work – Moving on with ferry built out of waste !

Now a days we keep on hearing the word “Restoring” to every form of nature, which is highly alarming due to the depletion scenario. Nature, which is self created by evolution is strength by itself and it’s distressing to hear repeated “Restorations” of nature by many means. Restorations continue to happen these days as diminutions of nature continue for materialistic human needs. Nature is an element that acts as a nucleus of life existence and survival, which when destroyed for material needs will have adverse effects not only for the human race but also shatters the life chain of flora and fauna.

The Team – We are proud !

The best gift that one human could present to the existing and future generation is not a developed (?) city or a monetary material but an unspoilt & pristine Nature. At the end of the day, EFI & CTC team departed with the same sense of gratitude. As we all left Arasankazhani Lake the saplings watched us happily, waging their branches thanking us for their birth!

Act now. Conserve Nature!