K.Manikandan

TAMBARAM: Sandwiched between two of the biggest urban areas in the southern suburbs of Chennai, Chitlapakkam town panchayat craves for greater support from different government departments towards a marked improvement in the condition of its basic amenities.

Upgraded as a town panchayat in 1971, Chitlapakkam finds itself dwarfed and cramped for space between Pallavaram and Tambaram Municipalities. Spread over 2.9 square km, the town panchayat’s population was a little more than 25,000 as per the 2001 census and its estimated population now is between 45,000 and 50,000.

The town hit the headlines in the late 1980s and early 1990s when in a pioneering effort, residents came together to successfully protect the Chitlapakkam Lake. Fearing that onslaught in different forms would irreparably damage the lake, like-minded citizens joined together and mobilised public support and sensitised the State government to the need for preventing the shrinking of the lake in the form of encroachments.

The spirit of unity still remains among residents who never hesitate to take up issues with the State government, be it poor supply of water and electricity while at the same time, encouraging their local body to press for its rights.

For instance, when in 2004, the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply classified Chitlapakkam town panchayat as a special village panchayat, along with many other urban local bodies in Tamil Nadu, residents here impressed the elected representatives on the need for seeking municipality status. Though the council passed a resolution to this effect, the State government did not consider it.

However, residents said that though provision of amenities had increased over the past couple of decades or more, there was huge scope for improvement.

P. Viswanathan, a resident of Tirumurugan Salai and convener of Chitlapakkam Residents’ Coordination Committee, summed up the lack of adequate services of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, poor power supply in tail-end areas, woefully short supply of Palar drinking water, inadequate facilities for dumping and composting of garbage and the continued pollution of Chitlapakkam and Sembakkam lakes were the most important problems faced by the people and posing a challenge to elected representatives and administrators of the local body.

The first bank branch, that of a nationalised bank, in Chitlapakkam was opened only earlier this year. As against the actual requirement of more than 30 lakh litres of drinking water a day, Chitlapakkam received less than 14 lakh litres every day under the Tambaram-Pallavaram Combined Water Supply Scheme. Though the local body tapped water from its own sources at five locations, it was barely enough.

The Government Order on providing individual water connections to the people within a week from the date of application was nothing but a farce, not only in Chitlapakkam but all over the city and its suburbs, Mr. Viswanathan said. A majority of the residents here were still dependent only on street taps, he added.

Garbage generated in the 18 wards at present is dumped on a site near the Chitlapakkam police station, the town panchayat office, a health sub centre and a government high school and is also set on fire at times. Sewage from East Tambaram is drained into the Chitlapakkam Lake contaminating the waterbody, while sewage from Pallavaram Municipality polluted the Sembakkam Lake. Chitlapakkam residents living around these lakes have been raising this issue, concerned at the depleting quality of groundwater. Stormwater drains have become open sewers, making it a convenient spot for breeding of mosquitoes.

Residents recalled that in the past, their town was served by three MTC services — 52 C, H 51 and 52 D — but only the last remained now. The other services were stopped during construction of the road over bridge at MIT Gate, Chromepet, but were not restored after the bridge was completed.

R. Mohan, Chitlapakkam town panchayat chairman, pointed out that a string of developmental activities was currently on. A sum of Rs. 47 lakh was being spent on laying bitumen-topped roads.

Other improvement works included creation of four parks and another four proposed ones under Community Based Environment Development programme, a Water Supply Improvement Scheme, including creation of an additional source at Palar under the Minimum Needs Programme.

A sum of Rs. 44 lakh was spent on a wood gas fired crematorium.

Chitlapakkam was the only urban local body in the region to have a liquid waste management plant to prevent sewage from entering Sembakkam lake, treat it and use it again for gardening purposes, Mr. Mohan said.

They were also planning to buy some more vehicles for better collection and disposal of garbage, he added.

More In: TAMIL NADU | NATIONAL