Though Corporation is constructing stormwater drains, many feel it will not help as works have slowed down
For the past month, residents of Chennai and its suburbs have been witnessing staggered rainfall and power cut, driving around potholed stretches, jumping puddles, honking horns, and trying to find a gap to negotiate in the burgeoning traffic on arterial roads. Perhaps, they are preparing for the usual challenges that are part of the northeast monsoon in October.
The thought of their areas being inundated during the monsoon is worrying residents. Though the Chennai Corporation is constructing stormwater drains, many felt that it would be of little use as the works have slowed down in the past couple of months. The addition to the existing length of around 800km of stormwater drains is not significant.
Only 167km will be added by the Corporation by September under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) project. However, civic body officials said the focus would be more on the city's low-level areas, including Santhome, Nungambakkam, Vysarpadi, M.K.B.Nagar, Muthamizh Nagar, T.Nagar, Kolathur, Virugambakkam, Perambur and Mullai Nagar.
Localities in north Chennai often bear the brunt, be it inundation or water pollution. Royapuram resident A.T.B. Bose said as the height of main roads, including Tiruvottiyur High Road, has increased, there is no way for water to run off from interior roads.
K. Jacob, a fisherman of Nettukuppam said, “During monsoon our temple is inundated as there is hardly any open space around it. Recently, we stopped our Panchayat from laying three concrete roads as they would not allow water to percolate into the ground. During last year's rain, the Ennore Expressway was damaged and it was difficult to commute to Tiruvottiyur,” he said.
While residents want the major waterways to be desilted soon, the Water Resources Department plans to start operations in mid-August only. “We have asked JNNURM contractors to desilt the canals that they are deepening,” a WRD official said.
Virugambakkam Residents' Welfare Association president S. Arumainathan said only 25 per cent of roads in the area have SWD. Roads in some areas, including Gandhi Nagar, Sai Nagar, Sheik Abdullah Nagar and Cooperative Society Colony, remain inundated for several days. “The drains have to be desilted to enable water to run off and the Virugambakkam canal must be deepened and widened. Every year only a portion of the silt in the canal is removed,” he added.
Commissioner D. Karthikeyan said the Corporation had allotted Rs.3 crore for desilting work. “Tenders have been called for a total of 65 packages and contractors finalised for 54 works. In some places work has commenced and is expected to be completed by September-end. We are speeding up works and will coordinate with other agencies.”
C. Palanichamy of VGP Selva Nagar in Velachery said water from Raj Bhavan, Maduvankarai, Pallipattu and Kanagam flowed into the Velachery lake. “This is a huge volume of water. But, the amount that flows out is very less, which leads to inundation of houses. Work on the Veerangal Odai should be completed before monsoon,” he said.
Roads in suburban areas, including Porur, Mogappair, Valsaravakkam, Ram Nagar in Madipakkam, CTO Colony in West Tambaram and Kolathur, remain under water for several days.
Every monsoon is a nightmare for Valasaravakkam residents. “We are unable to imagine rain without inundation,” says Haaj Mansoor, president, Rasi Podu Nala Sangam, an organisation involved in various social activities in Valasaravakkam.
Maduravoyal MLA G. Beem Rao says work on stormwater drains is nearly complete in areas such as Porur and is progressing in Valasaravakkam too. “If areas such as Nolambur, Ayapakkam and Adayalampattu are also covered soon, residents there will be able to manage better,” he said.
Complaints of sewerage network pour in even during summer and monsoon, when it receives double the load of the present 466 million litres a day of sewage generated, the problem is aggravated.
Chennai Metrowater, which has started operating machines at night, plans to desilt nearly 7,000 manholes at vulnerable points such as Vyasarpadi, Ekankipuram, Virugambakkam and Pulianthope. There are nearly 77,000 manholes in the city. The condition of manhole lids would be checked.
“The areas that had problems last year and 150 vulnerable streets would be monitored to reduce the cases of water pollution,” said an official. Work has been expedited to increase the pumping capacity of the sewage pumping stations to prevent overflow.
Adding to the problems this monsoon would be driving through roads where infrastructure projects are being executed. A. Ashok of Jai Nagar in Arumbakkam said, “I avoid driving through Jawaharlal Nehru Salai during rush hour as with Metro Rail work there is little space. Two-wheelers take over the footpaths. When it rains Ekkattuthangal gets flooded and it is difficult to drive.”
With regard to the Metro Rail project, the scheduling of all works that require road digging is being tweaked. Chennai Metro Rail Limited Managing Director K.Rajaraman said temporary drains are also being constructed at the maintenance cum depot coming up at Koyambedu. “Eventually, there will be permanent cross drains beneath the superstructure as the area is at a lower level.”
The laying of tracks and underground tunnelling work would begin after the monsoon. “There will not be much impact on the construction work during this monsoon and we hope the underground work will be at a sufficiently advanced stage by next year's rainy season,” Mr.Rajaraman said.
Though work on the project would not be affected, motorists and road-users are in for a tough spell on arterial corridors where Metro Rail work is in progress.
(With inputs from Deepa H Ramakrishnan, K. Lakshmi, Aloysius Xavier Lopez and Meera Srinivasan)