What individual associations cannot do, a group of them does. K. Sarumathi on what Virugambakkam Residents’ Association has done for the area

They were once scattered groups, each working for their own area’s welfare. While some managed to make a little difference, others were not as successful and fell into a slumber soon. But, working as separate teams, none could imagine bringing about a big change in its neighbourhood. Then in 2007, one man thought of bringing all of them together and thus was born the Virugambakkam Residents’ Welfare Association, an umbrella body for various residents associations in and around Virugambakkam.

“When we started, ten associations joined hand. Today we have 23 active associations registered with us and one representative from each is a member of the parent body. Together, we take up issues concerning residents of Virugambakkam. We go beyond streets and focus on issues common to the entire neighbourhood,” says Arumai Nathan, founder president of the Association.

The first issue they took up was the widening of Kaliamman Koil Street. The stretch is a vital link road connecting Vadapalani, K.K. Nagar and adjoining areas to Anna Nagar via Koyembedu. The proposal to widen it was mooted by the CMDA in its first master plan, but it still remains the Association’s distant dream.

Next, the Association was successful in getting a railway reservation counter at Koyembedu bus stand. “Earlier, people living in and around Virugambakkma had to travel to T. Nagar or Egmore for railway reservation. The counter at Koyembedu now caters to their need.”

Another major success of the association was getting the sewage plant at Koyembedu strengthened and the addition of one more to address the drainage problem in Virugambakkam.

“The drainage problem is acute here. During the rainy season, drinking water gets mixed with sewage. Also with more flats coming up in the area, the old pipes are unable to manage the flow of sewage and it often gets blocked and overflows on to the road. The distance between Arcot Road and Koyambedu also adds to the problem. In 2008, we filed a petition and got the main plant at Koyembedu strengthened and an additional one built. We also asked for four mini pumping stations to increase the flow and address the overflow issue. One is now being built at Gandhi Nagar,” says another member.

The members are now lobbying with the Corporation to get the Primary Health Centre at Natesan Nagar to function as a speciality hospital for women and children. At present, it operates for half a day and provides only pre-delivery and post-delivery care. “We want it to become a 24-hour hospital taking emergency delivery cases. Of the seven grounds earmarked for the hospital, only one has been utilised for the building,” says Arumai Nathan, who places a lot of faith in the RTI Act and says the association has filed over 500 petitions on various issues.

Among others, the association is also working on the Virugambakkam Canal issue and has been instrumental in getting walls constructed on the bank of the canal. “The wall is yet to be constructed in some places and the work on diverting excessive water from canal to Cooum has to be taken up. We are following the issue closely and hope for its early finish,” he adds.

While each association is encouraged to take up issues pertaining to their streets themselves, when they are unable to find a solution, the umbrella organisation gladly offers support.

(At Downtown Cares, resident welfare associations can discuss their neighbourhoods. These associations may write to us at downtownfeedback@thehindu.co.in or call us at 28576631, seeking a meeting.)