PWD takes up desilting of Virugambakkam canal

CHENNAI JUNE 26. When finally the desilting of the nearly six-km long Virugambakkam canal has been taken up, the implementing agency finds the going tough as the Government failed to take possession of the land it acquired 15 years ago for constructing the canal.

There was no trace of new encroachments along the stretch between Nelson Manickam Road and 100-feet Road, which passes through the residential localities of Choolaimedu and MMDA Colony, said officials of the PWD, which is carrying out the desilting work. The few structures encroaching on the canal and its banks were neither removed by the Government nor the owners, even though adequate compensation was paid to owners while acquiring the land from them. This time, the Government allotted Rs. eight lakhs for removal of encroachments alone which could have been avoided if timely action was taken, felt a section of residents. The desilting and bunding work would cost the Government Rs. 3.31 crores.

The 5.86-km canal originates at Chinmaya Nagar and empties into the Cooum near Nelson Manickam Road. The PWD officials said they were trying to recover the original width of 15 metres throughout the stretch. However, the width at the tail end is 7.5 metres only.

After a decade of shifting of responsibilities between the PWD and the Chennai Corporation, the maintenance of the canal was finally vested with the PWD.

Surprisingly, Metrowater sewage pipelines and telephone cables were also detected along the encroached banks of the canal, which, the PWD officials said, were laid without notice to them. They also blamed the Chennai Corporation for constructing foot overbridges across the canals without consulting them.

The spots vulnerable to encroachments would be identified and cordoned off by boundary walls to prevent any such structure from coming up, the officials said. Similarly, the canal banks, which are weak and face the threat of erosion would be protected with bunds.

As a first step, the reach between the tail end and the 100-feet Road has been taken up for desilting. On Wednesday, the officials, with the help of an earth moving machine, brought down a building in Kamarajar Colony, Choolaimedu, which the Government had acquired during the construction of the canal but did not take possession of. The wild growth along the reach was being cleared following which, the silt will be lifted from the canal and conveyed to nearby landfills.

While all the service agencies concerned were extending cooperation, assistance from the Revenue Department has not been so forthcoming, the PWD officials charged.

Residents of the areas abutting the canal have welcomed the move of the Government stating that they had to face heavy inundation during rains every year. Last year, the flooding was unprecedented, said K.A. Subramaniam and V. Dakshinamurthy, residents of Virugambakkam.

The PWD plans to execute the desilting of the entire canal in eight months and have entrusted the work with a contractor from Andhra Pradesh.

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