Challenges of beautifying waterways

Staff Reporter

Presentation on Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project

CHENNAI: The story of the Sabarmati River that flows through Ahmedabad resounded with a Chennai audience here on Thursday.

The city, established by the banks of the seasonal river in 1411, first used the Sabarmati as a source of drinking water, place of recreation and mainstay of farming activity. Then it turned its back on the river — the banks providing housing for the poor and the waterway becoming a repository of garbage and sewage overflow from stormwater drains — in a process mirroring the deterioration of Chennai’s waterways in the space of a few decades.

Bimal Patel of the Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC) presented an outline of the ambitious Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project, estimated to cost about Rs. 1,250 crore. The cost of the project is to be recovered from the sale of reclaimed land, expected to raise some Rs. 1,500 crore. The EPC is a not-for-profit professional planning and development management company.

The proposal for reclamation involves creating an embankment with two levels by reducing the width of the river by a few metres on either side. The lower level would be used for promenades and parks, making the waterfront available to the public, and the upper level for commercial or other development. The space along the Gandhi Ashram by the riverside would be the only property exempt from the scope of the project along the 10.5 km that the river flows through the city.

Public Works Minister Durai Murugan said that several proposals have been made for the rejuvenation of the city’s waterways — the Adyar, Cooum and Buckingham Canal. Political upheavals and problems in settling the poor on alternative sites were among the stumbling blocks to such proposals.

Chennai Heritage, the non-profit organisation that aims to increase awareness of heritage and improving civic responsibility in the city, organised the event. M.V. Subbiah of Chennai Heritage said that the presentation had also been made to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) officials earlier.

Mayor M. Subramanian, CMDA Vice-Chairman R. Santhanam and directors of Chennai Heritage N. Sankar, S. Muthiah, V. Sriram and Tara Murali, were among others present.

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