Concerning these hills, it was once said that it was impossible to cover a few hundred yards without having to cross some small stream or other. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of now. 

The district once abounded in grasslands and marshlands, which served as a huge sponge that absorbed water during heavy rains, and slowly released the excess as small rivulets during dry spells. 

Unfortunately mismanagement has led to conversion of vast swathes of these into interminable tracts of wattle and blue gum. These aliens neither bind the soil nor retain water. The net result, the streams of these hills, either become raging torrents of muddy water during the rainy season, or present a bone-dry appearance during summer.

The Yedapalli or Ethakadavu Marshland

In an effort to reverse the changes wrought by humanity, Clean Coonoor has started a project to try and restore a marshland near the hamlet of Yedapalli. This marsh which once served as a source of water to the eastern portions of Coonoor Town was degraded beyond recognition. With funds released from the Green Tax levied by the district administration Clean Coonoor has rejuvenated the valley bog, by removing all exotic vegetation, planting native tussocky grasses, and encouraging regeneration of native wetland vegetation.

It is heartening to note that after 6 months of care, a palpable change in the quality and quantity of the water discharged through the marsh is seen. The regeneration of wetland vegetation such as sedges, pipeworts, bladderworts alongside the grasses that have been planted, presents a pleasing site. A few indicator species which are restricted to the montane wetlands of the the Western Ghats have also put in their appearance.

In addition to Yedapalli, Coonoor as well has three other major marshes which are in the same degraded condition. We believe that restoring them will definitely provide an alternate source of water supply to the town which faces acute water shortages time and again.

Mission for exploring viable solutions to address water scarcity

As part of a fact ending mission to explore long-term solutions for addressing the issue of water scarcity in Coonoor, the marsh was visited by a special team comprising of the Executive Vice Chairperson, Tamil Nadu Industrial Guidance & Export Promotion Bureau, the District Collector, the Sub-Collector and other officials, on 24 June 2019.

The Erstwhile Dumpsite at Ottupattarai

As on 5 June 2021 a little above an acre of a reclaimed landfill at the Waste Management Park at Ottupattarai with native grass pods and shrubs.

The Hanni Kaallu or the Swampy Corridor

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! 
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot

Rudyard Kipling

Thus wrote Kipling a century back, and the uniforms of this country that guard us while we sleep, have time and proved that they can rise to any occasion, not only when the guns begin to shoot, but also during other emergencies and disasters, both natural and man made. Of late the armed forces have also started addressing environmental concerns that threaten the nation.

On the occasion of World Water Day 2023, Station Headquarters, the Madras Regimental Centre and the Cantonment Board, joined hands to preserve a resource which affects us all, the restoration of a piece of wetland situated in the midst of its limits.

This wetland which was once a source of potable water to the barracks situated around 80 yards above goes by the name “Hanni Kaallu,” which translates from the local language as “Swampy Corridor.” It was later converted into an artificial lake in 1875 by Lt. Col. Roberts in 1875.

As with the other waterbodies of this district the region is presently silted up and taken over exotic growth chiefly the pestilential lantana and Kikuyu grass. It now serves no useful purpose as the flow is fast with very little chance for the prime functions of any marsh, purification, percolation and storage. As part of ‘Mission Amrit Sarovar,’ the Army & Clean Coonoor have partly restored this wetland, and later, the Hinduja Foundation has taken up the completion of the works.