Chennai roads that ‘beat’ the rains

File photo of a recharge well at St Mary’s Road  

28 recharge wells and counting

Twenty-eight rainwater recharge wells spread across six streets and still counting. That is the investment residents of Kalakshetra Colony in Besant Nagar are making in their roads. Plans are afoot to increase the investment.

When this reporter spoke to a committee member of Kalakshetra Colony Welfare Association (KCWA) recently, she pointed out that a contractor was on board for the construction of three more recharge wells, one on Beach Road and two on Tiger Varadachari Road.

For the uninformed, KCWA is among the first resident welfare associations in Chennai to have invested in recharge wells and this exercise was undertaken more than 10 years ago. Since then they have only been adding these wells which are aimed at checking water-logging.

Besides the investment made by the RWA, Greater Chennai Corporation has constructed around 40 wells across the colony, members point out.

The result of this investment, they say, is that their roads are protected from inundation and rainwater is not wasted. The current water table stands at around 10 feet, say residents.

“Every monsoon, a few of us walk down our streets to inspect these wells and decide where water-logging is seen and suggest steps to combat it,” says the committee member.

Based on a complaint that water had entered a house near the police booth, the committee has decided to construct a well at the place.

Members point out that the success of these pits depends on how well they are maintained. Every year, before the north east monsoon sets in, the wells are desilted and cleaned.

“Close to 40% of our membership fee collected from residents goes toward the upkeep of the colony and RWH wells forms an important component of that,” says the resident.

The locality comprises six major roads: Rukmani Road, MGR Road, Beach Road, Arundale Beach Road, Appar Street and Mahalakshmi Avenue and a raft of smaller connecting roads.

An investment pays off

During the recent rains, when neighbouring localities were dealing with inundated roads, residents of Seethamma Extension in Teynampet were patting themselves on the back for a wise investment they made last year.

Last October, members of Seethamma Extension Welfare Association (SEWA) constructed 13 recharge wells on five roads (two main roads and three cross streets) after mapping areas prone to inundation. Within a few months, they added five more recharge wells, confident that the exercise would benefit all the residents immensely. And it did.

“We did not have to look far to see the impact of the rains as our neighbours KB Dasan Road and Seethamma Colony were under sheets of water on November 6 and 7. Many buildings with basement parking had to hire lorries to pump out the water. Our wells saved us as there was hardly any water-logging on most of our roads,” says R.P. Rajkumar, president, SEWA.

As Seethamma Extension does not have stormwater drains, residents are seeing a clear case for investing in more recharge wells. We initially spent ₹1.5 lakh in the project and now we plan to add three to four wells every quarter, says Rajkumar.

“Our plan is to construct recharge wells every 20 feet and ensure no rainwater is wasted,” he says.

SEWA members are clear that if this busy colony has to pass many such monsoon tests then the wells have to be well-maintained. “Pits are cleaned periodically and the frequency increases during October, November and December,” says Rajkumar, adding that the success of the harvesting depends on the periodic maintenance without which it will fail after a few cycles.

Recharge wells keep three streets dry

Unlike previous years, three streets at Choolai in Royapuram — Hussain Street, Fakhir Street, and Shaikh Street — are inundation-free following recent spells of rain. HFS Streets Resident Welfare Association sunk six rainwater recharge wells across these streets in November 2020 as they were prone to knee-deep water stagnation. And this November, the residents see the difference that the recharge wells have brought in.

“Each well is three feet in diameter and 20 feet deep. We spent close to ₹.1.5 lakh towards their construction. Soon after the recharge wells were sunk, there was a rain and the exercise proved worthwhile. This year, the city is witnessing good rains. Yet these streets are free of water stagnation,” says K Venkattu, a member of HFS Streets Resident Welfare Association.

At Michael Gardens in Ramapuram, wells in independent houses stand testimony to the recharge wells sunk by the Michael Gardens Residents Welfare Association in October 2020.

“The main objective of this initiative was to improve the groundwater level. Until 15 years ago, groundwater was available in the 10ft to 15 ft range. Later bore-wells have to be sunk 150 ft deep. So, at an expense close to ₹1 lakh, 22 rainwater harvesting wells were installed across Michael Gardens. Now following the recent rains many residents are happy to see the increased water level in their wells. Water is now available at a depth of 10ft in their wells,” says K M Jallandran, the association president.

Streets at Michael Gardens are also spared waterlogging.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 11:48:41 PM |

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