Residents of various areas registered their protest against the Greater Chennai Corporation’s (GCC) move to construct an integrated stormwater drain (SWD) project along East Coast Road.
In the public meeting organised by the GCC authorities at Neelankarai on Friday, representatives of the residents’ welfare associations noted that the south coast of Kovalam basin (M3 component) did not need a SWD network as the localities on the sea side had sandy soil, where rainwater percolation was quick.
S. Ramesh Babu, of VGP Golden Seaview Layout, Palavakkam, said the natural drainage system must be retained to prevent seawater intrusion. The SWD would also affect the groundwater recharge in the localities. The authorities did not share the information of the detailed project report (DPR) with the residents. The locals held up placards at the consultation meeting demanding that the Corporation provide them with the DPR before conducting any further meetings.
There was also confusion as residents from the west side of the road were also invited for the meeting even though the project did not include these areas. T.D. Babu, founder, Spark, a civic forum, said the views of those falling in the areas of the M3 component were that all residents should give their consent for the project.
The project envisaged draining floodwater from the areas along ECR directly into the sea. This would not only affect the groundwater table but also destroy coastal habitats and affect the fishing community, he said. The residents also feared that the Olive Ridley turtle nesting grounds would also be affected due to the drain project.
Participants said the GCC authorities had assured that the views of the majority would be taken for the project’s implementation. The project has been mired in controversy from the previous AIADMK period with the residents vehemently opposing it. They wrote to the KfW, the German bank that was to fund the project. The bank had asked the Corporation to conduct stakeholder meetings before implementing major infrastructure projects such as stormwater drains.
Five Members of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, had written to the KfW expressing their concern over financing the construction of the SWD along ECR, allegedly without assessing environmental impact.