Chennai Flood Relief
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 (?).
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.
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.
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.
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