The Cooum River originates from the surplus course of Cooum tank in Tiruvallur District. It runs east for a distance of about 65 kilometres and confluences with the Bay of Bengal downstream of Napier Bridge, traversing a distance of 20 kilometres within Chennai city limits.

Cooum River Sub-Basin is a narrow drainage basin of about 505.88 situated between the Kosasthalaiyar sub-basin on the northern side and Palar basin and Adyar basin on the southern side. Cooum River is fed by Kosasthalaiyar river surplus from Kesavaram Anicut through old Bangaru channel and Palar river surplus from Palar anicut through Govindavadi Channel, Kambakkal Channel and the chain of surplus courses of groups of tanks. Cooum River also supplies water to Chembarambakkam lake in the Adyar Sub-basin from Korattur Anicut through New Bangaru Channel. Cooum River is connected to its adjoining basins through the Buckingham Canal.

Cooum River supports a substantial portion of irrigation and additional rain fed agriculture in its upper part and also provides water supply to Chennai city and its adjoining areas. Cooum River also acts as the major flood carrier for Chennai city with its arms viz., Otteri Nallah in the north (10.8 km) and Virugambakkam to Arumbakkam drain in the south (6.4 km).


The upper catchment of Cooum River is primarily rural and as it enters the peri-urban areas and Chennai City, the river is constrained in channels before draining into the Bay of Bengal. The Cooum River in its upstream rural areas shows issues of catchment degradation and tank siltation. There is also no minimum flow maintained in the river during the lean season. As the river flows through peri-urban areas and municipalities, there are increasing problems of water quality. The highly polluted reputation of the river also leads to public apathy and disposal of solid waste on the river bed that impacts downstream water quality and oxygen levels in the water. When it enters the city, the river is basically an urban sewer receiving municipal and industrial wastewater and solid waste (especially near bridges) and refuse from slums. This results in the direct impact of polluted anoxic stretches, as well as raises public health (including from mosquito breeding in stagnant waters) and odour concerns and secondary groundwater pollution. The river mouth is subject to blockage by sand bars resulting from littoral drift creating a lack of tidal exchange in the river.


The restoration of Cooum River has been at the top of the agenda for the Government of Tamil Nadu and to this end, a comprehensive eco-restoration plan has been prepared to rejuvenate the riverine system and CRRT has been entrusted with the effective implementation of the ambitious initiative of Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project with the following objectives:

  • To ensure effective abatement of pollution and protection of rivers by adopting a sustainable approach to promoting inter-sectoral co-ordination through comprehensive planning and management.
  • To maintain ecological flows into the river with the aim of ensuring water quality and sustainable development.
  • To develop the river front within urbanized areas, wherever possible.
  • To explore potential future uses of the river after restoration.

The Project area presently being covered for restoration comprises the stretch from Paruthipattu Anicut to the river mouth in the Bay of Bengal. It was proposed to take up the restoration from Paruthipattu as the major sources of pollution have been observed to be downstream of Paruthipattu, in the densely populated urban areas.


The implementation of the eco-restoration project is being carried out by various Line Departments and comprises of 69 activities to be undertaken in 3 phases. 60 major restoration activities are expected to be completed in Phase-I (0-3 years), while the rest will be taken up in Phase-II & III. The restoration works have been entrusted to various line departments as detailed below:

S.No Department Works
1. Public Works Department Desilting, demarcation & fixing boundary stones and bio-metric survey
2. Greater Chennai Corporation Solid waste removal, fencing, boom deployment, developing parks, cycle tracks and walkways
3. Commissionerate of Municipal Administration Solid waste removal, fencing and providing children parks
4. Directorate of Rural Development & Panchayat Raj Solid waste removal, fencing and vegetation
5. Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board Laying interceptors, installing modular sewage treatment plants & UGSS
6. Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board Resettlement & Rehabilitation
7. Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust Mangrove development, flora plantation, community education programmes and monitoring of project implementation.



To enhance free flow of water during the monsoon and also to maintain minimum ecological flow of water in the Cooum River, the PWD has been entrusted with desilting, formation of baby canal, bio-engineering to stabilise the bunds, boundary demarcation and laying of boundary stones.

Formation of Baby Canal near Padikuppam Causeway
Before WorksBaby Canal Formation work
Laying Geo Textile Membrane in Baby Canal Laying of Rip-Rap Stones
Formation of Baby Canal at Paruthipattu Baby Canal at Padikuppam Causeway
Bund Formation at Padikuppam Causeway Desilting at Padikuppam Causeway


The Greater Chennai Corporation has been entrusted with the tasks of development of parks, walkways & cycle tracks, removal of solid waste and fencing.

Boom System at Commander-in-Chief Bridge, Egmore
Removal of Debris at Metha Nagar Foundation work for Fencing at Padikuppam


The CMA has been entrusted with the tasks of park development, removal of solid waste and fencing.

Removal of Solid Waste at Thiruverkadu Municipality
Before CleaningAfter Cleaning
Foundation work for fencing at Thiruverkadu Municipality
Fencing at Right BankFencing at Left Bank


CMWSSB is entrusted with plugging of identified outfalls into the Cooum River and to provide interceptors & diversions and modular sewage treatment plants along the river.


TNSCB is entrusted with the responsibility of Resettlement and Rehabilitation of families living within the right of way of River Cooum and to implement community development programmes.


The DRD has been entrusted with the task of removal of solid waste, fencing and developing vegetation in Adyalampattu, Seneerkuppam, and Vanagaram Village Panchayats.

Removal of Solid Waste at Seneerkuppam Village Panchayat
Before CleaningAfter Cleaning


CRRT is entrusted with Mangrove development, flora plantation, conducting community education programmes and also monitoring of project implementation.

Mangrove Development & Flora Plantation: Plantation along the Cooum River banks will be commenced after completion of desilting and bund strengthening works.

Community Education Programme: Community Education programmes have been initiated.

Sensitization Workshop on Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Project for Promoting
Community Education - Higher Educational Institutions conducted by CRRT