During rainy season, residents do a ‘hop-step-and-jump' to enter their homes
It is Ward No 1 of the expanded Madurai Corporation. An appendix of Vilangudi town panchayat till recently, this cluster of residential areas on the flanks of the Alanganallur Road presents a pathetic picture of unplanned urban growth. Their contiguity to the city made them the most sought after place for a quiet living. In the last decade, new residential colonies have sprung up like mushroom, in between a well planned Railar Nagar and Santhi Nagar, in or near water bodies and water ways.
“When we constructed our house in 1976 in Railar Nagar, the area was meant to be a lower middle class habitat. It was peaceful and the facilities available were adequate for us. Today, we find that it has become part of the city and also upgraded itself as an upper middle class and upper class area. But the facilities created for a limited population are woefully inadequate now,” says B. Narayana Singh, a retired employee of Life Insurance Corporation of India.
From just a few residential colonies in the 1970s, the Alanganallur Road now has numerous ‘nagars' and more are to follow. But houses have emerged without minding the absence of inadequate facilities.
In Appathurai Nagar, one can see an apology for a road made of construction debris. The space not occupied by houses is filled with a mixture of stormwater and sewage. Water mark can be seen in all compounds. During rainy season, residents do a ‘hop-step-and-jump' to enter their homes. In Chockalinga Nagar, the roads are so bad that even a new road laid with private funds in First Street in August has been submerged in stormwater.
“Every day, it is an ordeal for students and office-goers. It is difficult for us to gauge the depth of the pools of water. We have to pay for the drinking water as the supply is irregular and inadequate,” says B. Venkatachalam, a resident of Chockalinga Nagar.
The recent rain has only compounded the problems of the residents. Rainwater has invaded all streets and the corporation will find it difficult to grapple with the sanitation problem. Waste water is drained into the nearest vacant plots, making them mosquito farms. The situation, residents say, is better now as the surplus carrier linked to Sathaiyar dam has been desilted. The stormwater canal, which skirts Appathurai Nagar, prevents stagnation to a large extent. The nearness to the Vilangudi tank makes many areas vulnerable to water stagnation during rains.
The situation is similar in Ashok Nagar, Anjal Nagar and Booman Nagar, says A. Rangarajan, a trader on the Alanganallur Road.
R. Pandi of Chockanathapuram attributes unplanned urbanisation as a reason for the problems faced by residents. Some of the residents point out that it was easier to get layouts approved without having to make mandatory provisions for park, playground or drainage. The immediate need of the area is proper drainage. Solid waste management is another area of concern. Non-biodegradable waste could be seen in heaps almost everywhere. Garbage clearance is yet to become regular. Water supply to approved layouts depends on the infrastructure provided by the erstwhile town panchayat. The absence of better civic facilities beyond the Koodal Nagar rail overbridge makes the area a poor cousin of the city.
Following the construction of the overbridge, there is now no need for vehicles to slow down at the level crossing.
As a result, cyclists and pedestrians are under a constant threat of getting knocked down.
Mr. Narayana Singh points to the narrow, 10-foot road that serves as the link to Alanganallur Road for many residential colonies.
“Every day, thousands of people use this narrow passage on foot and in two-wheelers. This road should be widened to provide smooth passage for pedestrians and vehicles up to the Tamil Nadu Housing Board Colony,” says Mr. Narayana Singh.
Speed-breakers, which are normally found near residential areas and educational institutions, are absent here. Hence, speeding lorries are more than a menace. The area gets congested whenever the weekly market meets in Koodal Nagar or nearby areas.
Residents feel that bus services to select areas in the city are few. “We have to change two buses to reach the Integrated Bus Stand at Mattuthavani. The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation should introduce bus services from here to Anna bus stand and Mattuthavani,” says Mr. Rangarajan.
When the sleepy Koodal Nagar railway station was developed by the Southern Railway a few years back, there was expectation that it would emerge as the ‘Mambalam' of Madurai, if not ‘Tambaram.' Only a few trains, including an express train, stop here.
“If more trains, especially express trains, stop here it will be a boon to residents of south Madurai. It will also result in easing of traffic congestion around Madurai junction and Periyar bus stand,” feels Mr. Narayana Singh. With its recent promotion, Ward 1 of Madurai Corporation looks to days of better living.