While extensive water pollution and misuse is becoming a roadblock to freshwater availability in major cities, Siruthuli, a non-profit organisation in Coimbatore has been pioneering modern-day water conservation for the past fifteen years. Siruthuli (in Tamil – “a tiny drop of water”) has been working tirelessly to successfully restore the freshwater levels of Coimbatore to its former abundance and conserve the River Noyyal.
The story behind Siruthuli
Since pre-historic times, Coimbatore had been the seat of several important civilizations, thanks to its pleasant maritime climate, abundant rainfall and most significantly, the mighty river Noyyal. Fed by descending rainwater from the Western Ghats, Noyyal was once the lifeline of Coimbatore, nurturing over 20,000 acres of agricultural lands that flourished on her banks. In addition, Coimbatore boasted of an intricately connected network of water bodies including streams, lakes, and ponds as well as underground aquifers.
However, due to rapid urbanisation and industrial growth, Coimbatore began to lose her water resources. In the 1980s, the city was declared by UNDP as “drought-prone, with the fastest depletion of groundwater level in the whole world.” Simultaneously, rampant encroachment and unplanned sewage contamination have reduced River Noyyal to a narrow drain. Out of the 34 streams that originated from the Noyyal, only 3 are thriving as near-arid seasonal streaks of water.
Restoration of river Noyyal
After a devastating monsoon failure in 2003, a few socially conscious organisations of Coimbatore decided to collaborate and take some action. Thus, Siruthuli was born in 2003 – with a vision to recover the city from its severe water crisis.
The stepping stone: Krishnampathy lake
The first project undertaken by Siruthuli was the 125 acres wide Krishnampathy Lake, of which over 50 acres had succumbed to illegal encroachment. The volunteers de-silting the remaining 75 acres. Soon after, the dried up reservoir and interconnected borewells filled up to the brim after only two days of rainfall. The local farmers, who initially discouraged Siruthuli’s efforts as futile were astonished beyond belief.