G. V. Ramana Rao
For administrators, canals and canal bunds pose multiple challenges
VIJAYAWADA: They are the lifeline for hundreds of villages and thousands of farmers in the northern half of Krishna delta. Bandar Canal, Eluru Canal and Ryve’s Canal have been catering to the drinking water and farming needs of people of that area for over a hundred years. Bandar Canal is still the main source of drinking water for people of Machilipatnam.
Thanks to these canals, Vijayawada is in the race for the title of ‘Venice of the East’, competing with Alleppey of Kerala and Kampong Ayer of Brunei.
Several bridges have been built across these three canals over the decades making eligible to vie for the exotic title. Of course, the bridge building had cost the city exchequer dearly, stunting the development of the city in other areas.
The canals, which are equipped with a complicated lock system, were used for transportation in the past. Provisions were transported from Machilipatnam to Vijayawada. With improvement in road transport, boats have gradually vanished. The State Government recently initiated efforts to revive transportation of men and material through canals and entrusted the task of preparing a report to RITES, a national consultant.
Originating from Krishna River in the city, the canals impact the lives of people of the city in many ways.
A promise to stop the authorities of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) from moving out families living on canal bunds gives legislators and corporators an edge to defeat rivals.
The money being spent on beautification of the vacated canal bunds and their lease to private parties is another issue that has tilted scales in favour of political parties that opposed such decisions. For example, the decision to give a piece of prime land on the bank of Bandar Canal, facing M.G. Road, to a private party for development of a leisure centre has drawn flak.
For administrators, canals and canal bunds pose multiple challenges. Canal bunds for long been a hot bed for the growth of slums formed by the thousands of families that migrated to the city from some of the drought-prone districts of the State.
The Irrigation Department, the primary custodian of canals and lands on the bunds, owns about 117 acres, out of which about 54 acres are under occupation by several public institutions and private parties even after the expiry of lease period.
The department’s attempt to sell outright or give away on lease all its canal bund lands to the VGTM UDA has not met with any success so far.
The canals have become the focus of authorities only in the past decade. After decades of neglect, the civic administrators and elected representatives began taking note of the unhygienic conditions prevailing in the slums that developed on the canal bunds.
Relocating the families from the canal bunds to housing colonies and their subsequent beautification became the daily grist for warring political parties. Corporators spent hours thrashing out issues pertaining to facilities that should be provided to relocated families. The administrators and elected representatives allocated a substantial portion of taxpayers’ money for the development of civic and other infrastructure in these areas.
The VMC, in the absence of a comprehensive underground drainage system in the city, uses the canals to let out sewage from various outfall drains. The sewage dumped into the canals not only pollutes its water but also makes the maintenance of canals difficult. The sewage changed the scenario, leading to the growth and thriving of Tape Grass that obstructs the flow of water and causes heavy siltation. It also costs more for the removal of weed and de-siltation.
The lining of the canal beds with concrete or some other such material is required to prevent the canals from getting silted.