Clogged waterways getting attention, at last

CHENNAI DEC. 25. After having drawn the public wrath during the recent floods, the Chennai Corporation seems to have woken up to the problem of clogged waterways and stormwater drains many of which have been left unattended for years.

As witnessed at many places, mounds of earth are being removed regularly from the stormwater drains, indicative of years of neglect.

In a knee-jerk reaction to the floods, the Corporation took up emergency desilting on some stretches of the city watercourses including the Mambalam canal. But it now faces the uphill task of removing hundreds of encroachments on the canal banks.

Emergency desilting was carried out in different `problem spots' during the rains to make way for water to flow. But six weeks since the rains, the public have yet to see any action.

The Mambalam canal has been a major cause of severe waterlogging in different parts of the city. After a partial desilting operation in 1998-99 at a cost of Rs. 16 lakhs, water logging in critical areas such as G.N.Chetty Road was arrested, though it was also assisted by subsequent poor monsoons.

The change of guard at the Ripon Buildings or at Fort St. George did not make things better, as civic issues continued to take a backseat in political wranglings.

The heavy inundation of roads was only pointer to the fact that the civic body had not carried out proper desilting of the stormwater drains and waterways in right earnest, said residents of T.Nagar, who faced one of the worst floods in recent years.

Especially G.N.Chetty Road, an acute problem area, was one of the worst hit this monsoon too. This despite construction of a new storm water drain network along the stretch at a cost of Rs. 1 crore in 1999-2000 with consultancy on gradient and dimensions offered by IIT-Madras.

In most of the inundated areas including Prakasam Street near the Panagal Park, and Giriappa Road and Srinivasa Road off Theagaraya Road in T.Nagar, the Corporation had to use pumpsets to bail out water.

Engineers of the storm water drains department said desilting of the canal could not be done due to the encroachments. Most unauthorised structures were concentrated along the stretch between Prakasam Road and G.N.Chetty Road, and near Thadandar Nagar on both sides of Anna Salai. On Theagaraya Road, two NGOs put up concrete structures a couple of feet above the canal. The decade-old buildings, which housed an old age home and a learning centre for street children, obstructed the cleaning operation. The Commissioner, M.Kalaivanan, said the Government was apprised and its reply was awaited before any work could be taken up.

Two years were wasted in a debate between the Corporation and the PWD on the jurisdiction of Mambalam canal. At least now, work should be taken up seriously, notes Saidai P.Ravi, councillor.

Mr. Kalaivanan said, "tenders have been floated to engage a surveyor for studying and recording the cross-sectional details such as longitudinal slope and depth of silt for the Mambalam canal, the Captain Cotton canal and the Nungambakkam canal". The details would be useful for calculating the estimate for desilting and repairing the watercourses.