The Adyar Creek's present decaying condition is a reflection of the state and the consciousness of the city above and around it. This was the challenge that we have taken on with no naïve illusions that the task ahead will be easy; and conscious always that it could perhaps take decades to complete it. For as we consultants got more and more involved in the Adyar Creek Project, many people warned us against a ‘mission impossible'.
View of Srinivasapuram showing the encroachments and polluted edges of the Creek
We have approached the task of creating a Master Plan for the ecological restoration of the Adyar Creek and Estuary area with the confidence and faith that it can be done. We believe this process can involve the citizens of Chennai in an exercise of self-reflection and practical action whereby, gradually, the conditions which have almost destroyed life in the river will be transformed and the city itself will celebrate its own cleanliness and well-being. Chennai has the knowledge, and with it the political will, to renew what has been wasted.
The wisdom, order, beauty and creativity displayed in nature are powers that each individual possesses. A place like the Adyar Poonga is meant to nurture these energies and we are calling on these qualities, to now engage in the huge task of protecting and healing this piece of the planet. As the consumer society has grown, a huge amount of damage to the environment has been done in a very short time and only because of the extraordinary flexibility and compassion of natural systems have we got away with it – so far.
All over the planet natural system renewal is emerging as the most important task to be done, a science of global healing. What is required is a thorough knowledge of how nature works, delicate and deep perceptions of specific sites, development of new and appropriate techniques and hard physical work, much of which cannot be done by machines and which should involve the community. The Adyar Poonga could be a place where people are trained for this essential task; a school for urban ecosystem renewal.
The Poonga is not about entertainment or making a profit. It is about making a difference – a big difference. A place to dream up an eventual Chennai, where children can again swim in the Cooum and the Adyar and boats can again float on a clear, clean Buckingham canal. A Chennai where water is adequate, the air is clean and where streets are given back to the people. The Poonga could help people learn the essential skills that we need to survive the turbulent times ahead. What we are starting will take time. The complete cleansing of Chennai's waterways may not even happen in our lifetimes, but that is a good reason to start now, keeping in mind that there is only a small difference between the tiny seed and the majestic crown of the mighty banyan tree – that essentially they are part of the same abiding faith.
All images courtesy Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants