Dug-up roads not closed despite schools having reopened

For Munira, every trip to her son’s school on Tiruvottiyur High Road in the last week has been a harrowing experience.

“The sides of the road are still dug up. They have been in the same state for the past two months. I thought they would close the trenches by the time schools reopened but that did not happen. I shudder to think what will happen if someone falls into them,” said the resident of the Ajax area in Tiruvottiyur.

The death of a three-and-a-half-year-old child, who fell into a manhole in Taramani on Sunday, has brought into focus the construction and maintenance of stormwater drains in the city.

At least five schools are located along the Tiruvottiyur High Road and parents like Munira are worried about the safety of their children.

The sides of the road have been dug up by the highways department for construction of stormwater drains and Chennai Metrowater for providing drinking water connections to Tiruvottiyur as part of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Though the latter has cordoned off the cuts it has made, the highways department has not.

“Warning signs and reflective strips are not found near the trenches. Though work is progressing throughout the day, there is no guarantee that the trenches will remain accident-free. The main market area is also situated near Theradi. Access to the shops is via temporary wooden structures,” said Ma. Ki. Ramanan, a resident of Tiruvottiyur.

Street lights were also removed from the stretch when work to widen the road began five years ago. “Construction debris from buildings, which were demolished to widen the road, was left on the roadside for many months. The widening work was stopped on several occasions and it was after a great deal of effort on residents’ part that it was resumed. We hope it will be completed soon,” said R. Jayaraman, former chairman of the erstwhile Tiruvottiyur Municipality.

Sources in the highways department said that reflective tapes that had been placed at the work sites on many occasions but had been removed. “They keep vanishing overnight. We will instruct the contractor to replace the tapes and ensure that the trenches are not unsafe,” the source said.

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