Policy note for 2012-13 covers only Mamallapuram and Tirumazhisai Town Panchayats

Residents of Chitlapakkam, Sembakkam and Madambakkam Town Panchayats near Tambaram are in for a disappointment as they have to wait for a couple of years for a crucial underground drainage project to start. In the policy note of the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply for the financial year 2012-13, it was stated that only Mamallapuram and Tirumazhisai Town Panchayats near Chennai have been selected for the implementation of the project for this period.

A section of residents and elected representatives from these three urban local bodies are not happy about the development, and recalled that the State government had been on the verge of commencing the project a year or two ago, but had shelved it due to reasons unknown even to the local bodies.

Officials of the Directorate of Town Panchayats and staff at these urban local bodies told The Hindu that it was in the middle of 2006 that the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board invited national bids to prepare Detailed Project Reports to implement underground drainage projects in more than 50 rural and urban local bodies in the city's suburbs that came within the Chennai Metropolitan Area of Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur Districts.

In February 2009, the Ministry of Urban Development gave its consent to implement the project in six town panchayats around Tambaram — Peerkankaranai, Perungalathur, Chitlapakkam, Sembakkam, Madambakkam and Perungudi at a combined cost of Rs. 273 crore. It was proposed to bundle Peerkankaranai and Perungalathur in one project and Chitlpakkam, Sembakkam and Madambakkam in another. As far as Perungudi was concerned, it has now become the responsibility of Chennai Corporation to expand its sewer project to the newly merged local bodies.

The proposal for Perungalathur and Peerkankaranai was dropped, while the one for Chitlapakkam, Sembakkam and Madambakkam Town Panchayats remained. Since 2009, there have been many studies, spot visits, discussions and technical review meetings. Sites were also identified to construct lift and pumping stations and sewage treatment plants.

Boards were put up informing residents that the government was using land to build facilities as part of the sewer project. It ran into rough weather with residents protesting the locations stating it would cause severe damage to the environment.

Engineers of the Department said that towards the end of the previous government's tenure, the initial sum of Rs. 2-3 crore allotted by the State government for the three town panchayats was either taken back or diverted for other purposes, virtually signalling the shelving of the project.

Residents were hoping the new government would revive the project, but have been thoroughly disappointed. “Instead of addressing the legitimate concerns and fears of residents and acting accordingly, the State government has dropped the project for the time being going by its policy note,” said P. Viswanathan, Convenor, Chitlapakkam Residents Coordination Committee.

“The State government was very clever in annexing cash-rich local bodies like Perungudi and Sholinganallur which have surplus reserves in crores of rupees, while leaving out other local bodies despite their having characteristics on par with the metropolis,” Mr. Viswanathan argued. He urged the State government to take up underground drainage projects for the three town panchayats in the current financial year itself.

Officials said that DPRs for 525 town panchayats in Tamil Nadu were prepared at a cost of nearly Rs. 13,000 crore, but quickly added that it will take at least a couple of years before work on the underground drainage project is taken up in these urban local bodies around Tambaram.

The project, according to residents, is crucial to protecting water bodies that were increasingly getting polluted due to discharge of effluents and untreated sewage from homes and commercial establishments.

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