Residents of Keezha Devadhanam area can now heave a sigh of relief soon as the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation on Wednesday began dredging of the Devadhanam canal that has been heavily silted up without being cleaned for over a decade.

The problems faced by the residents of Keezha Devadhanam owing to the clogged drain were highlighted by The Hindu on Monday.

On Wednesday, the corporation officials pressed into service earthmovers and labourers to clear the stretch of the canal between the Kurinji College and Moovendar Theru, a distance of about 1 km. The operation will bring some relief to residents of ward 8, including Keezha and Mela Devadhanam, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, Masthan Thoppu, and other areas, who had been braving the foul odour and mosquito menace.

A corporation engineer said the earthmovers would be used to clear the canal wherever it was wide enough and workers would be deployed to clear the silt on narrow stretches inaccessible to heavy machinery.

Apart from removing the silt and weeds, the exercise would involve a clearing the open drains on most residential areas in ward 8, including Sankaran Pillai Street, Cauvery Road, Andal Street, and Butterworth Road, he said.

Although the original width of the canal was said to have been over 30 feet, encroachments had shrunk the water course to less than five feet in some places. However, the current clean up drive of the corporation did not envisage eviction of encroachments as the civic body was keen to complete the work before the onset of monsoon.

The issue brings into focus the problem of encroachments on such canals across the city. Many stretches of the canal, referred to as the Irattai Vaikal running from Tharanallur/Varaganeri on the Thanjavur Road, had been heavily encroached upon.

The canals branch off from the Uyyakondan river and traverse for about 6 to 8 km in the city before joining the Cauvery. The two canals were part of an irrigation network comprising eight channels feeding several acres of agricultural fields many years ago.

Although they come under the control of the Public Works Department, they are maintained by the corporation.

The twin canals had been reduced to an ill-maintained drainage over the years owing to rapid urbanisation. But in a city that woefully lacks a storm-water drainage system, the canals have come to serve as drains.

The canal needs to be rebuilt as cement concrete drains, concedes a corporation official.

But this would require huge investments and the civic body was hoping to raise the resources for strengthening the major drains after a study by a consultant, currently under way, is completed.