With Chennai Corporation and the Water Resources Department slackening work on a major 1,448-crore flood mitigation project, residents may be put through severe water-logging again

It looks like Chennai will have to pay the price for its civic agencies' lethargy this monsoon. The massive Rs. 1,448-crore infrastructure development project implemented for flood mitigation in the city is plagued with problems this summer, an ideal period for completing any infrastructure scheme on time.

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From contractors illegally outsourcing their work to postponing their regular work to inadequate coordination among agencies, a series of problems ail these crucial civic projects.

Consequently, residents may be in for enormous hardship a few months later, after the onset of the northeast monsoon. Unless the civic body wakes up and completes key portions of the drain network during summer, the city will have to battle flooding and inundation.

The ambitious flood mitigation project, being undertaken with Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission funding, looks at improving the city's drainage network, focussing both on micro and macro drains.

Project plan

To carry out the project, the city's drainage outlets have been grouped into four basins. The northern basin covers areas around Kodungaiyur drain, Madhavaram tank, Otteri Nullah and Ambattur tank. The central basin covers areas around Cooum river and Virumbakkam-Arumbakkam drain, the eastern basin covers areas around Buckingham canal, and the southern basin includes Veerangal Odai, Porur Tank and Okkiyam Maduvu.

By improving the drainage network along these basins, the project seeks to help the city cope with the monsoon better, particularly localities such as Velachery, Adambakkam, Vyasarpadi, Koyambedu and Valasaravakkam which are badly hit year after year. However, little progress has been made (see graphic).

The deadline for completion of work on the northern, eastern and southern basins is December 2012. The central basin has a deadline of September 2013.

Some of the contractors of the Corporation seem to have entrusted the work, including material and labour contract, to sub-contractors, leading to further delay. The sub-contractors are taking their time to carry out the work, due to fluctuations in the prices of construction material. While the practice is illegal, the Corporation has not done much to curb it, so far. “We will not permit this. We will take action,” said an official upon inquiry.

Slow on technology

The inability of many contractors to switch over to better technology such as ‘precast drain' to quicken project implementation is another hurdle. Precast technology is being used instead of ‘cast-in-situ method' in three of the 17 projects covering Cooum, Adyar and Virugambakkam watersheds. Work using precast technology can be completed in a week while cast-in-situ method requires more than a month.

Hurdles pertaining to shifting of utilities and restrictions posed by traffic police have prevented work in over 650 locations. Work was under way in 220 sites across the city with the participation of nearly 1,000 workers, according to officials of the civic body. “We will speed up the work and finish at least 75 per cent of the project before monsoon,” Commissioner D. Karthikeyan told The Hindu.

Though optimistic, the Corporation has so far completed only about 26 per cent of work in the city's northern basin, 21 percent in the central basin, 44 per cent in the eastern basin and 23 percent in the southern basin. These have an allocation of Rs. 815 crore.

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