Lost Water! Remainscape?

"Lost Water! Remainscape" (LWR) constitutes a digital literary initiative conceived within the framework of the "Digital Innovation in Water Scarcity in Coimbatore" project, under the sponsorship of AHRC at Lancaster University, UK. The primary objective of this endeavor is to leverage digital literature as a strategic tool for mitigating environmental crises, notably water scarcity. Coimbatore, situated in the semi-arid belt of Southern India, has been grappling with persistent water stress and recurrent, severe droughts spanning the past four decades. This region, formerly a component of The Madras Presidency during the era of British colonial governance (1799-1947), underwent partition post-independence, yielding five distinct districts, namely Erode, Coimbatore, Kaur, and Tirupur. The prevailing acute water crisis is a confluence of climate change dynamics compounded by decades of deficient management and haphazard urbanization. Numerous lakes and reservoirs in the vicinity of Coimbatore, as well as in the adjoining Erode, Tirupur, and Karur districts, have succumbed to degradation. The imbalance between water supply and demand exacerbates the situation, with an escalating struggle among the populace to secure adequate water resources. Moreover, the deteriorating condition of water bodies in these districts stems from a combination of mismanagement, climate change, and pollution. The project synergizes diverse datasets, encompassing archival maps, historical and literary archives, and oral narratives, through the application of digital humanities methodologies.

The Survey of India maps of Southern India dating from 1916 to 1945, archived at the National Library of Scotland, were digitized as an integral facet of the project. Geographical Information System (GIS) and ArcGIS software were harnessed to generate georeferenced historical maps, facilitating the visualization and documentation of the evolving waterscapes. Utilizing Leaflet JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, the project has successfully mapped both vanished and dwindling water bodies.

The resources derived from historical and literary sources, as well as oral testimonies obtained from local farmers, village elders, and NGOs, were employed in the development of a digital literary project. This project endeavors to portray the waterscape of both past and present through a diverse array of narrative components, including text (comprising poetry and detailed descriptions of Coimbatore's waterscapes in both English and Tamil), digital literary elements, videos, and images. Various digital literary features, such as interactivity, kinetic texts, hypertexts, and gaming elements, have been integrated into the project. The Tamil poetry is authored by Jagadeesh, while the details in both Tamil and English, along with the translation of Tamil poetry into English, were crafted by Shanmugapriya, the author of the LWR. Technical support for the development of this project was provided by software trainer Mohanapriya and data analyst Dharan Raj. LWR was developed using a suite of software tools including Blender, Adobe Animate CC, CSS, JQuery, and HTML. Our overarching objective is to raise awareness about the environmental crisis, particularly focusing on the water stress prevalent in South India.

LWR comprises four distinct segments: Introduction, Tanks, River , and Photo Animation . The introductory section serves to acquaint the audience with the project's collaborators and partners. The subsequent section, "Tank," delves into the historical context of water tanks and their engineering systems. Drawing from a rich array of historical, literary, and oral sources, this segment sheds light on the construction of water tanks during the Karikala Chola period in the 9th century. These tanks were designed not only to store surplus water but also to mitigate flooding in the region, exemplifying remarkable engineering ingenuity that maintained elevated groundwater levels. The poetry featured in this section serves to metaphorically explore the symbiotic relationship between tanks and the local populace.

How to play and read: Water Tanks comprise four sub-sections, each integrating digital literary elements such as creepers, banana leaves, coconut tree leaves, and clouds, augmented by semiotic exploration. This design necessitates a specific engagement from the player/reader to unveil the concealed text behind these elements. Following the completion of each section, a brief tour video showcasing tanks constructed along the Noyyal river is presented, devoid of any intervention from either the player/reader or the work itself. This allows for contemplation regarding their previous experiences within the narrative.

The third section, River, encapsulates the essence of flowing water, fish, butterflies, and trees. It depicts the picturesque Noyyal river of Coimbatore as it was in historical times. The animation serves as a retrospective journey, while the poetry evokes emotions and offers a fresh perspective on the waterscape through a combination of visual imagery and textual narrative. This section provides intriguing insights into both the current and past conditions of rivers and tanks in the region.

How to play/read: River section comprises three sub-sections. Within this segment, the digital literary components incorporate straightforward game mechanics that involve interaction with natural objects such as coconuts, coconut tanks, and feathers. Participants are required to interact with these elements to unlock access to the accompanying textual content. In similar to the Tanks section, a brief tour of the river is presented, featuring close-up footage of butterflies and fish in motion.

The concluding segment, Photo Animation, presents the present state of the water bodies along with contextual details conveyed through bubbles. To engage with the content, viewers can halt each bubble as it floats in the air to examine the associated image and read the accompanying text by clicking on it. These images were gathered during field visits to water bodies in the Coimbatore region.


Marsden, E. 1839. The Madras Road Book. The Asylum Press. The British Library.

Nicholson, F. A. Manual of the Coimbatore District in the Presidency of Madras Volume I. Govt. Press, 1887.

Nicholson, F. A. Manual of the Coimbatore District in the Presidency of Madras Volume II. Govt. Press, 1898.