WRD has desilted and widened major portions of North Buckingham Canal

The Water Resources Department (WRD) has desilted and widened major portions of the North Buckingham Canal, a work that is expected to reduce the risk of flooding during this northeast monsoon in many residential localities in north Chennai.

Nearly 70 per cent of the work to desilt the 17,300-metre-long canal, running from Ennore creek and joining the Cooum river near Central Station, has been completed. The width of the canal bed was previously only 15 m. With the removal of encroachments and desilting, the width has increased between 25 m and 40 m. The canal work was taken up under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

Mounds of garbage waiting to be cleared are a common sight along the canal. “We clear nearly 50 lorry loads of garbage collected from the North Buckingham canal and Otteri Nullah each daily. One load is equivalent to five cubic metres. The waste, including silt, plastic and bundles of old clothes, are transported to the Kodungaiyur dumping yard during night hours,” said an official.

According to officials of Special Projects Circle, WRD, the canal has been deepened up to 2 metre to enhance its carrying capacity from 1,500 cubic feet per second (cusecs) to 3,500 cusecs. “We received surplus water in the canal of 3,500 cusecs during the torrential rains in 2005. Taking that flow into account, we designed the canal improvement work. Cleaning a stretch of one km near Central railway station is a challenge as it has to be done only for a few hours in night,” an official said.

The improvement project is crucial for north Chennai as Otteri Nullah, Captain Cotton Canal and Kodungaiyur drain joins in North Buckingham Canal. However, the department faces hiccups in completing the construction of flood protection wall retaining wall along the banks of the canal owing to encroachments and labour problem. About 240 huts that have encroached upon the canal at Elephant Gate have to be cleared to proceed with the improvement works.

Only 40 per cent of the work, which would also prevent silt in the canal, has been completed so far. Labourers find it hard to construct flood protection wall particularly near Manali as they have to stand in the canal bed that also carries industrial effluent. “We have problems in continuing the work on schedule as they often fall sick. The deadline has been pushed to December next year,” an official said.

The WRD is facing problems on account of encroachments in improving the 6,360 metre-long Virugambakkam-Arumbakkam canal. “We don't have space to even move the machinery as the waterway has been heavily encroached upon. We want to finish the project for at least half the distance in six months,” the official added.

The department is also carrying out monsoon preparedness work in Otteri Nullah and South Buckingham canal under JNNURM. The work is expected to be over by next month.