Desilting on in covered part of north Buckingham canal near Central station

Not many of those who cross the stretch of Poonamallee High Road near Central railway station, every day, would know they were going over the north Buckingham canal. Fewer still would have known that over the past 10 days, a bunch of workers were busy cleaning up the city’s dirty secret.

After over 14 years, a team of ten persons has been engaged to clean the portion of the canal underneath the arterial road. While floating equipment is sent into the covered portion to clear the garbage and silt, and dump into a facility attached to it, a machine with an 18-metre-long arm has been stationed on the bund to unload and carry the silt.

Though the covered stretch of the canal — beneath Pallavan Salai bridge, near Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and Central Railway station — runs to just 250 metres of the total length of 17 km of north Buckingham canal, desilting the waterway has always posed a challenge.

Jamal, one of the workers involved in the desilting exercise, said: “We work during the day as there is very little visibility and low oxygen levels. We did not have a choice but to engage workers to help the floating machine with its attached facility move along the waterway. We had fixed a propeller to the machine. But, garbage often got entangled and crippled the mobility of the equipment.”

The team is now removing floating garbage, and so far, has managed to clean just 10 metres. “People continue to dump garbage in the canal through the gaps near Central railway station. It makes our task all the more difficult,” Jamal said.

The desilting exercise is part of improvement works being taken up along north Buckingham canal. Officials of the Water Resources Department said work on the part of the canal near Central railway station has remained a challenge as it is not possible to carry on for more than five hours per day.

“It costs us at least four times more to clean this portion of the canal. There are many cables criss-crossing underneath the canal and therefore, work has to be carried out with utmost care. This also involves seeking permission from Southern Railway. Carrying the accumulated silt is also a major challenge,” an official said.

About 6,000 cubic metres of silt is expected to be removed from the canal, which is two metres deep. “We are also planning to build a high wall along the canal and landscape the slope of the bund to prevent further dumping of garbage. We have written to Southern Railway authorities to help prevent dumping of waste in the canal,” the official said.

Residents of Elephant Gate have already begun to feel the impact of the desilting operation as the level of stagnant water in the canal has decreased. People living in areas such as Vyasarpadi and Basin Bridge are likely to benefit from the project as it will help reduce inundation during the monsoon, and also reduce mosquito menace to some extent. The Department expect the clean-up to be completed in a month.

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