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Tsunami flushes out river silt

By K. Lakshmi



This satellite image of December 27 shows the opening up of the mouth of Adyar river in the impact of the December 26 tsunami.

CHENNAI, JAN. 5. The tsunami that struck Chennai has forced open the mouths of Adyar and Cooum rivers, which were heavily silted with sand deposits, and almost drained the Adyar of its sullage.

The Adyar's mouth at Foreshore Estate has been opened wider — to over 200 metres — by the seismic waves and have helped flush the river, said a Public Works Department official. The Cooum river mouth, located south of the harbour, had also widened by 80 metres.

Pointing out that this was not an unusual phenomenon, the official said the tidal waves that accompany cyclones periodically flush rivers and have a far-reaching effect. The last time the river mouths were widened by powerful tidal waves was during the October 2002 cyclone.

The seismic waves had a positive impact on the rivers (whose free flow into the sea were obstructed by sandbar formation) by draining the rivers of their sludge and creating a natural link with the sea.

Most of the 42-km stretch of the Adyar river had been desilted, expect for a few pockets due to encroachments, another official disclosed.

The 17-km stretch of the Cooum has been desilted for about a two-km-stretch, with 2,500 encroachments cleared along the riverside. The work on the remaining stretch would be resumed in May after the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board evicts the remaining encroachers. Steps are being taken to allocate alternative sites for the evictees.

The Environment department director, S. Balaji, said a study on the impact of the tsunami on the rivers was yet to be done, but said the waves did not impact sufficiently on the rivers to raise concern.

The seawater entered the river because of tidal flow and the effect could be felt in the Adyar up to Saidapet bridge and in the Cooum up to Chetpet bridge. With the Chennai Port acting as a barrier against sea waves, it lead to depositing of sand in rivers in the southern part of the city and erosion in north Chennai.

The Public Works Department proposed to build a rubble mound sea wall in coastal areas in north Chennai to prevent erosion. A 7.5-km stretch had already been covered, including those in Ennore and Tiruvottiyur.

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