Work has been moving at a very slow pace to de-silt, deepen and erect walls on both sides of the Virugambakkam canal to prevent flooding.

The six km-long Virugambakkam canal has turned into a one full of woes for residents living in its vicinity. Running along Virugambakkam, Arumbakkam, Vadapalani, Saligramam, Choolaimedu and ultimately joining the Cooum river, the canal, which was meant to drain rain water excess to irrigate farm lands, has become an open drain today. Work has been moving at a very slow pace for years to de-silt, deepen and erect walls on both sides of the canal to prevent flooding of the residential areas.

There has always been a demand from residents to hasten up the work, but the requests have all gone in vain. With crores of rupees sanctioned for the project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the residents’ anger at the work being left incomplete seems justified.

But much to the delight of the residents, the work was recently taken up again by the Public Works Department. A part of the wall has already been erected along one side of the canal. But not every one seems to be happy. For some these development works have left a bad taste in the mouth.

When the canal was constructed, people living near it were given compensation for vacating. Some left, but some chose to stay back. Those who stayed back now face the danger of their property being damaged.

R. Prema’s house lies adjacent to the canal. During monsoon, the house gets completely inundated. For her, the construction of wall, which otherwise should have been a welcome development, has become the reason for her woes. A part of her house is in the danger of being damaged.

“The PWD officials say that they will have to construct the wall on a section of our land under which runs the drainage pipe and water line. My house not strongly built, the use of bulldozer will itself make it vulnerable to damage. We want the PWD to construct the wall away from the house.”

Jaya Krishnamoorthy, Exnora secretary, Ko.Si Mani Street, Choolaimedu West, said she has been fighting with the PWD officials over the canal issue since 2005.

Speaking on behalf of those who stand to lose from the recent development she said, “We will be sending a petition to the Chief Minister highlighting our fears. We welcome the construction of the wall, but we want the government to ensure that private property is not damaged.”

For residents of Indira Gandhi 2 street the construction of wall will rob them of a proper approach road. The PWD has said the road will be reduced to seven feet, making vehicular movement very difficult.

The problem of sewage water being let into the canal also needs addressing. “We had demanded that these sewage lines be plugged, but it has not been done yet. The water gives out a bad smell and residents are at the risk of contracting diseases,” she added.

New proposal

The earlier proposal to create a diversion channel through Jawaharlal Nehru Salai, Arumbakkam was dropped. Now a new proposal has been put forth to create diversion channel from Kaliamman Street to the Coovum. “The contractors say bhoomipuja for the project has been done and work will commence soon. If completed, half of the water from the Virugambakakam canal will get diverted, and areas like Choolaimedu West will be saved from flooding,” Ms. Jaya said.

The residents also want the canal to be covered with a park or parking lot built over with. “If it can be done over the Nungambakkam canal, it can be done here as well,” the residents said.