On Monday, Rajiv Gandhi Salai was inundated, mainly due to inadequate stormwater drains

A fast ride on six lanes, art work on the sides, lush green medians, immediate response to accidents, foot overbridges — Rajiv Gandhi Salai (OMR) provides it all and is exhibited as a showpiece of the city’s planning and construction.

But on Monday night, none of these facilities mattered. With heavy showers lashing the city, most of the road was completely water-logged and dozens of motorists were stuck for over an hour, trying to navigate it.

At PTC quarters, a resident said he had to drive at a snail’s pace just to reach the other side of the road. The traffic snarl caused by the inundation did not allow residents to enter any lanes that lead from Rajiv Gandhi Salai. The world-class road had at least a foot of water everywhere on it. The showy footpaths with interlocking bricks too were submerged, and commuters waiting for bus services were seen standing atop the kerb stones to escape the waves of water.

Regular commuters on the road say this happens every time it rains. Enquiries with the Tamil Nadu Road Development Company (TNRDC) revealed that the road was not supported by a proper stormwater drain network. Lead-off drains needed to take the water to Buckingham Canal and Pallikaranai marsh are yet to be built, as these drains pass through areas that come under the control of the Chennai Corporation. This has happened despite the fact that the project was started from scratch and the project managers had time and money to build it.

Though the detailed project report of the road had proposed construction of drains to carry stormwater, this was not implemented. TNRDC gave it up and the State government said that local bodies would construct the drains. After the Corporation took over the area, it took up the responsibility. But only now has the work been initiated, and it will take quite some time for the drains to be ready.

In many cases, government agencies cite lack of funds as a major issue. However, this project is one that seems to be flush with funds. The road was constructed at a cost of Rs. 400 crore and the average collection from the toll plazas touches Rs. 3 crore per month. TNRDC also gets income from advertising revenue. The drains would cost just Rs. 15 crore, but according to sources, the company did not have adequate funding to construct them.

Though the road became a tolled facility in December 2008, construction of footpaths and ducts is yet to be completed. The road also does not have bus shelters, forcing commuters to bear the brunt of the monsoon and the harsh summer sun. According to planning experts, the road was constructed because of urgency and international demand. The drainage system was not integrated into the road, displaying ad-hoc planning.

Government agencies seem to be experts at just not passing the buck, but also in inadequate and inefficient planning, as seen in this project.

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