Madras Week 2019: Know your Chennai

When development leads to deterioration

A hub for petroleum, petrochemical and fertiliser units, Manali is witnessing an exodus on account of high levels of pollution

Manali, a north Chennai locality spread over an area of 42 sq. km., has a number of reasons behind its historical significance; its evolution as an industrial hub being among them. Nevertheless, its residents say the story of their life is an account of their struggles with growing pollution levels.

A hub for petroleum, petrochemical and fertiliser units, Manali has earned for itself the dubious tag of being among the critically polluted industrial areas in the State over the years.

Key projects

Historian V. Sriram said it was during the 1960s that Manali acquired fame due to two projects that have made the area a chemical hub - Madras Refineries Limited, now known as Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited, started in 1965, and Madras Fertilisers Limited, which was started in December 1966 as a joint venture between the Government of India and AMOCO, US.

For many long-time residents like T. A. Shanmugam, old memories of Manali start with water. “When I was young, I remember the well in our house having water at a depth of 10 to 15 feet following rains. We could fetch water using a bucket. The quality of water was good. Over the years, the quality has deteriorated and the level of water has gone down. We, in fact, closed our open well and sank a borewell,” he recalls.

He, like many long-time residents, has been seeing people leave Manali for greener pastures.

“Manali might have developed over the decades, but it is not suitable as a residential locality owing to the industrial pollution. Only those who do business here or have lived here for generations stay on. Many others have moved away after retirement or after finding a good piece of land for constructing a house,” he adds.

Jayachand, a shopkeeper, is surprised at the unexpected level of development that Manali has undergone. “I have been doing business here for the last 22 years. Businesses have thrived in Manali. I took this shop on a rent of Rs.350 then. Now, we do not get shops even for a rent of Rs.6,000,” he says.

It is pollution that matters the most for many. Residents say that many have respiratory and skin diseases.

Chennai Corporation officials, while noting that Manali’s population stands at around 1.56 lakh, say it is largely industrialised.

As Mr. Jayachand points out, “It is very difficult to sit here in the evening as the smell of gas from the industries engulfs the area. But we have learned to live with it.”

Amenities missing

The lack of proper amenities makes many residents unhappy. Selvam, a resident, notes that though Manali was added to Chennai Corporation nearly seven years ago, not all areas are covered by an underground sewerage network.

For regular visitors like B. Balaji, a resident of nearby Mathur, it is the lack of train connectivity to Manali that has hindered its development. “Even the roads have been the same for years now. They have not been widened though many new shops have come,” he says.

Past perfect

Yet, amid all this, Manali has a historical connect. “It is from this village that Muthukrishna Mudali, the last chief merchant of the East India Company, hailed. It was he who rebuilt the Chenna Kesava Perumal temple in George Town. The Manali family controlled several charities and had a lot of land and estates in Madras. They had a house in Manali, which was known as Meddai Thottam and had a private swimming bath,” says Mr. Sriram.

Muthukrishna Mudali made significant contributions to Carnatic music by bringing composer Ramaswami Dikshitar to Madras, Mr. Sriram says, adding: “This later paved the way for the introduction of the violin to Carnatic music. The longest Carnatic composition of 108 ragas and thalas was made on the son of Muthukrishna Mudali, Venkatakrishna Mudali.”

The statues of the Manali family are found inside the Chenna Kesava Perumal temple. However, their contribution has been forgotten over the years, he observes.

‘We continue to battle traffic congestion’

When I moved to Manali New Town 25 years ago, there was only a narrow path. Today, we have a wide road. I moved to Manali New Town as I worked in Ennore. Then, the CMDA, during the sale of plots, told us that Manali New Town will have a link road to the nearest railway station at Kathivakkam. This link road has not materialised. Presently, we have no alternative route other than the Ennore Ponneri Road. We still face traffic hurdles. Due to the large number of container terminals, industries and the harbour, there is continuous movement of lorries, resulting in traffic jams at points such as Andarkuppam check-post and MFL junction. There was a plan to link Manali New Town to Sadayankuppam, which too has not happened.

From a few houses in the beginning, Manali New Town has a significant population today. The makeover happened only after Manali became an added area of Chennai Corporation in 2011. Now, the roads, streetlights and garbage collection have improved. In fact, the locality is much cleaner than many parts of the city. Nevertheless, the tag that Manali is a polluted area remains.

The Madras Restrospective — The Hindu dated 24-08-1955

The Government have approved the plans and estimates relating to the remedial measures for removing odour nuisance in the Adyar river at a cost of Rs.1,42,200 submitted by the Corporation of Madras. The scheme relates to the improvement to the Adyar Pumping Station, which was originally designed to deal with the drainage system in Adyar area. Since Gandhinagar drainage system has also been connected with this station now, the Pumping Station is not able to cope.

The present scheme is intended to relieve congestion in the entire drainage system in Adyar and Gandhinagar by additions to the Pumping Station machinery and pump the sewage in a shorter time.

The Government have informed the Commissioner that the scheme as approved, is eligible for half grant and half loan from the Government.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 6:23:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/when-development-leads-to-deterioration/article29240852.ece

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