Many road-laying projects and provision of utility services scheduled for this period went haywire

Northeast monsoon, which contributes to a major share of the annual rain in the city, is still a few months away. But, Chennai is already grappling with woes usually associated with the monsoon.

The city has already registered 62 cm of its annual rainfall of 122 cm. Of this, 42.4 cm was recorded from June 1 to August 22 owing to the vigorous southwest monsoon.

While the rain has helped in increasing storage of city reservoirs, it has also meant delay in development works carried out by various government agencies. Many road-laying projects and provision of utility services scheduled for this period went haywire as rain played spoilsport.

Residents complained that top layers of roads that were stripped off with cold milling process have not been re-laid for many days. Riding on such roads proves risky as it turns slippery after rains.

D. Nagarajan, a resident of T. Nagar, said “We find it difficult to ride on Dr. Narasimha Road, which awaits blacktopping. Traffic on the junction of North Boag Road and Vijayaraghava Road has become chaotic as Chennai Metrowater's manhole construction work started six months ago is yet to be completed.”

Roads dug up for either construction of stormwater drain (SWD) or other civil works remain unpaved as the contractors of civic agency await dry spell.

The uneven surface of 3rd Cross Street in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, has added to the chaos of heavy vehicular traffic. Road-users, including pedestrians, have a tough task in negotiating G. N. Chetty Road and Luz Church Road where large portions of the road have been occupied for Metrowater's improvement works and under-construction SWDs.

S. Viswanathan, a resident of Abirami Apartments in Abiramapuram 3rd Street, said “While digging for SWD, they damaged the sewer lines twice and we got it repaired.”

Former president of Paver Finish Road Builders Association S. Pandian said “We need dry surface for blacktopping. Some works were cancelled, following showers. There may be gap in paving the road as a different contractor scrapes the top layer.”

Complaints of water contamination and sewage overflow have also started pouring in. Officials of Chennai Metrowater said the rain had delayed the operation and maintenance work. Measures are being initiated to monitor water quality. As permission has not been given for road cuts since June, improvement works to the network have been delayed.

Improvement works of major canals have also been sluggish. Officials of Water Resources Department said the delay would be made up for during summer. The Rs.2 crore-worth desilting work would be taken up in September.

Meteorological Department officials said the city had experienced good showers during this season in this decade. In 2007, the city received 678 mm of rainfall during the same period.

The convective activity is more during the southwest monsoon because of surface heating. Even a weak cyclonic circulation triggers a thunderstorm phenomenon. Whereas in winter, such convection may not be substantial as the temperature may not shoot up.

This year since June 1, Nungambakkam has received around twice the average rainfall of 208 mm for the season. Meenambakkam recorded 355 mm against the average of 235 mm so far. In 1996, Nungambakkam received a heavy downpour of 1,149 mm against the season's total rainfall of 362.6 mm till September, the officials said.

Educational institutions also have their share of worries. The academic calendar has to be compensated by extending school hours or working on Saturdays, particularly for high school students, for the days lost due to showers.

According to the Directorate of School Education, 200 working days are mandatory in a school year even if the inclement weather would warrant them to declare holiday. Last year, the Department declared four to five days of holiday.

According to Chennai Corporation officials, of the Rs.106-crore worth road works allocated this year, only Rs.44 crore worth projects have been executed. The milling and re-laying of 80 roads have been completed. Work on relaying 60 roads would be completed by mid-September. However, there may a delay if rains continued.

A senior official of the Corporation said “We were able to work only for 10 or 12 days during June and July. Some works cannot be taken up immediately as the tar mixing plants in the suburbs are under water. If we get 10 to 15 days of dry spell, work would be expedited.”

Mayor M. Subramanian said nine works to construct SWD had begun and three more works would be finalised shortly. By 2012, the total length of SWD network in the city would touch 1,200 km.

The Chennai Corporation has planned to conduct coordination meetings next week with other agencies to tackle rain-related challenges, he said.

(With inputs from K.Lakshmi, Aloysius Xavier Lopez and Liffy Thomas)

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