As the project to give the Buckingham Canal a makeover is set be kick-started by various government agencies in Chennai, residents along the 48.5 km stretch from Ennore Creek to Muttukadu are demanding public consultation for proper design of the infrastructure associated with the waterway.
Residents say the proper implementation of the restoration project of Buckingham and 52 other canals in Chennai is crucial to flood mitigation in most residential areas such as Chepauk, Triplicane, Mylapore, Velachery, Raja Annamalaipuram, Adyar, Mandaveli, Tiruvottiyur, R.K. Nagar, Pulianthope and Sholinganallur.
K. Viswanathan, Secretary, Mylapore Residents’ Welfare Association, said residents had made a representation to civic officials for restoration of the Buckingham Canal because of flooding in areas such as Raja Annamalaipuram.
“We have highlighted civic issues caused by the existing condition of Buckingham Canal. There has been a constant exchange of ideas between corporation officials and residents. Because of the MRTS stations in Mylapore, Mandaveli and Light House, the canal’s width has been reduced. True restoration of th canal can happen only if the water flows properly from north to south, without inundating residential areas,” said Mr. Viswanathan.
Residents have stressed the need for engineering solutions for draining floodwater into Buckingham Canal near areas where MRTS stations have blocked the flow. Pointing to the variation in the width of the canal in the city, residents said they wanted officials to conduct public consultations at flood-prone locations to get information from engineers about the optimum width of the Buckingham Canal and 52 drains.
The width of the Buckingham Canal has shrunk from 200 metres to less than 50 metres in many locations.
Residents who have constructed houses along the Buckingham Canal have supported the project because of the possibility of appreciation in the market value of their property.
S. Mangala Raj, former councillor, said residents who own property on roads approved by the Greater Chennai Corporation in the vicinity of Buckingham Canal support the project because the property valuers expect an increase in market value by more than 40%.
“Residents who are identified for resettlement have resisted the move. Some residents have demanded houses in the same neighbourhood to prevent loss of livelihood,” said Mr. Mangala Raj.
M. Satheesh, a resident of Ekambaram Street in Mylapore Assembly constituency, said residents were worried as officials had informed them about the visit of a team this week to identify households that need to be evicted.
“My daughters are studying in a school in Santhome. One is in class 12 and the other is in class 10. Their education will be affected in the event of sudden relocation. We request construction of houses in a large parcel of land that was used as a garbage transfer station by the Corporation in Mylapore,” said Mr. Satheesh.
Residents in the neighbourhood said the area had flooding of more than one metre during the 2015 floods. Inside the houses in the area, there was water up to one feet during the rain this year.
At least, 378 households have been identified by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board as per Rajiv Awas Yojana survey on Ekambaram street many years ago. But the actual number of households was expected to be more than 1,000 in the area now, residents said.
As a result, the demand for in situ development of new high-rise houses has gained momentum in the Corporation land that was earlier used as a garbage transfer station in Mylapore near Ambedkar Bridge.
But the Corporation officials have rejected the demand to build houses in the garbage transfer station in Mylapore.
After the Corporation stopped using the garbage transfer station as per the new system of garbage clearance, the civic officials are planning to reserve the land for development of civic infrastructure instead of permitting the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board to build high-rise buildings for the poor. At least 60 slums along the Buckingham Canal are expected to be demolished for restoration of the 48.5-km stretch of the canal.
According to some estimates, more than two lakh people are expected to be affected by the project to restore Buckingham Canal after the enumeration is completed. Civic officials said the project would prevent pollution of the canal and improve public health in more than 25% of the 200 wards of the Corporation.
Pollution in Tiruvottiyur, Tondiarpet, Royapuram, Teynampet, Adyar, Perungudi and Sholinganallur zones are expected to reduce after the completion of the first phase of the project. In the first phase, the Corporation will create infrastructure to prevent dumping of solid waste in Buckingham Canal and 52 drains in various parts of the city.
Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board will develop infrastructure to enlarge sewage pumping main, enlarge existing gravity sewer main, construct new sewage treatment plants and improve existing pumping stations. Administrative sanction for ₹1,001-crore worth projects has been given by the government.
Officials pointed to the increase in allocation of ₹608 crore for plugging sewage outfalls in the Buckingham Canal when compared to ₹31 crore for the Cooum river and ₹89 crore for the Adyar river.
The first phase is expected to be completed by December 2022 and the restoration project is expected to be completed by 2023.