A look at the cut-and-cover drain projects at Chitlapakkam in Chennai

The mud, after the muddle

Trenches for drain project now filled with mud, say residents

The residents of Thirumagal Nagar Second Street had hoped that the cut-and-cover drain project initiated by Chitlapakkam panchayat would finally end inundation in the neighbourhood, which battled three successive years of flooding since 2015. However, the project which started abruptly has also ended abruptly offering no solution but causing more inconvenience to the residents.

The panchayat had dug a mud canal 5-feet deep and 5 feet wide at Thirumagal Nagar Second Street in October and for more than three months, the channels were left open. Last week, the panchayat officials refilled the open canals with mud and closed them without offering an explanation to the residents. “For more than three months, the residents of Pradeep and Karthik Avenue at Thirumagal Nagar Second Street did not have proper access to the road and we had to put up with so many other inconveniences. Even when the project started we questioned the officials about the timing of the project since the monsoon season was already near. We also pointed out that no tender was called for to start work, but the panchayat’s executive officer told us that the canal was an emergency measure to prevent flooding and had the approval of Kancheepuram Collector, who had also assured us that it would be covered with concrete after the monsoon. But now, we are only left with a bad road and no cut-and-cover drain,” says Dayanand Krishnan, a resident of Thirumagal Nagar.

“The “emergency” project which dragged on for more than three months also posed several safety risks to the residents. Two weeks ago, a car fell into the trench and the driver luckily escaped unhurt. Two weeks ago, there was an medical emergency and an elderly resident had to be rushed to a hospital. The ambulance had a tough time reaching their house because of the open drain. No barricades or caution boards were erected. This project was nothing but three months of hardship for the residents and a criminal waste of public money,” he added.

Dayanand also pointed out that the road in Thirumagal Nagar Second Street was relaid only in September 2016 after the residents started a signature campaign, but the mud canal project has taken it back to its old and damaged condition, besides damaging the public utility cables.

Meanwhile, the executive officer of Chitlapakkam Panchayat Venkatesan denied that the canal was part of the cut-and-cover project but only an ‘emergency measure’ to prevent flooding, and blamed the residents and activists for misleading information. The cut-and-cover project at Thirumagal Nagar Second Street will be initiated separately, he said. Asked why the already-existing canal was not converted into a cut-and-cover drain instead of closing it, he said that the canal was dug only to prevent inundation during the last monsoon when a red alert was issued for Chitlapakkam. “It was never part of the cut-and-cover drain project. We closed it now because the monsoon season is over and also the residents started complaining of frequent mishaps and safety issues. A tender will be called for the cut-and-cover project soon at Thirumagal Nagar Second Street and the road will also be relaid once the project has been completed,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 4:27:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-mud-after-the-muddle/article26015852.ece

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