Neelankarai residents oppose stormwater drains
Following repeated attempts by the Corporation to construct stormwater drains (SWD) on the ECR, Sri Kapaleeswarar Nagar Residents Welfare Association, Neelankarai have sent a mail to the KfW Development Bank, German, stating their objections to the funding of SWD construction in their locality.
The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has collaborated with the KfW Development Bank for funds to ensure adequate stormwater management. This includes a) Comprehensive discharge of excess rainwater (drains, pumping stations); b) use of natural water resource from precipitations (retention, infiltration); c) protection of biodiversity in natural Pallikaranai Swamp; d) prevention of human/material damages during future extreme weather events. The cost of the project as per the Chennai Corporation website is Rs.1243.45 crore for a length of 360 km. Kocks Consult Gmbh, Germany, did a detailed survey, hydraulic calculations, environmental assessment, and detailed design for the project.
It all started in January 2019, when the Corporation surveyed the locality for the construction of the drains. However, the residents immediately registered their opposition to the initiative via letter to the Corporation. Following continued objections, the Superintendent Engineer, SWD / Special Projects, GCC, and the Executive Engineer, SWD department, GCC, responded stating, “As your association is citing many technical points for abandoning the construction in your area, definitely this will be forwarded to Kocks Consultants appointed by KfW, who will be meeting you. Unless your association is agreeable, Greater Chennai Corporation will not take up any construction in the area and your letter copy is forwarded to KfW and Kocks Consultants for scrutiny and reply.”
However, despite the written assurance, the Corporation has repeatedly conducted surveys for the construction of SWDs. Their recent attempt prompted the residents to send an email to the Corporation and the Bank.
The association, in their letter to the Corporation and the Bank, points out:
Unlike Pattinapakkam and other flat terrains, Kapaleeswarar Nagar does not have a flat terrain that would lead to flooding/inundation. In fact, the fall of the natural ground level from the ECR to the seashore is 7m.
During the tsunami of 2004, the waves did not even touch the first road situated close to the sea as the ground level rises by 3m in the first 80m of the sea-shore.
The sandy soil of the seashore extends over the entire area of the vicinity. Since the subsoil is extremely porous, rainwater percolates into the ground immediately. There was no stagnation of water even during the 2015 Chennai floods. In the absence of any water stagnation, the question of stormwater conservation does not arise.
Almost all the houses have installed rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems.
The documents prepared and presented by the Kocks Consult Gmbh are generic and not site-specific. Thus, they do not consider the naturally available drainage systems of the vicinity. The document recommends taking into account ground features while adapting the generic drawings.
The association also posted a caution on the misuse of SWDs. They stated that even if the Corporation wanted to dovetail SWD into the drainage of the vicinity, an independent scheme for the same needs to be drawn to prevent it being used as a garbage dump or to let out sewer, which in turn would pose an environmental and health problem.
The association also points out non-implementation of certain recommendations by Kocks, such as the provision of ‘link gabion’ stone array at the seaside end of the SWD. With the sewer now in the SWD, it is being directly let out to any low lying area near the shore, ignoring any hygiene and lack of decision by the executing engineers.
The SWD scheme was conceived in 2014 and there have been considerable changes in terrain features and underground utilities. With the association expecting sewer and water connections soon, SWD would interfere with these necessities.
The association also wonders if there was a consideration on social changes to the beaches considering its growing popularity and the impact of the SWD and the let out sewer will have on it.
The association also calls attention to the fact that despite being told that they would be contacted for further consultations, they have not been approached by anyone till date. Subsequently, they are informed that their earlier representation is rejected unilaterally and arbitrarily without explanation.
However, the fight is still on. The residents vehemently oppose the construction of SWD, either for draining the local rainwater or for leading the stormwater from East Coast Road. They also request the Bank and the Corporation to consider utilizing these funds for providing basic facilities like an underground sewage system and protected piped water supply - something that the residents are waiting for the past 30 years.
The Superintendent Engineer, SWD / Special Projects, GCC, and the Executive Engineer, SWD department, GCC in their response to the Sri Kapaleeswarar Nagar Residents Welfare Association, Neelankarai also mentioned the below points:
After the amalgamation of extended areas like Kottivakkam, Palavakkam, Neelankarai, Pallikaranai, Ambattur, Valasaravakkam, Madhavaram, Alandur, Manali and Thiruvottiur, with the core city, the government of Tamilnadu, with the vision to create various infrastructures for these areas, have sanctioned funds for various schemes.
Roads have been taken up under Chennai Mega City mission schemes where a network of roads, SWDs, and ducts have been installed at many of these extended zones. Streets lights have also been installed with LED lights.
Similarly, to relieve water stagnation, it was announced in the 2014 Assembly that an Integrated Storm Water Drain network will be constructed for the extended areas, which includes areas in Adyar and Coovum basin, covering Zones 7, 11 and 12, Kovalam basin covering Zone 12, 14 and 15 and Kosasthalaiyar basin covering Zones 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7.
M/s. Tetra Tech, who were appointed to survey the four basin’s hydrological and stormwater management, in 2011, submitted their report. The World Bank took up the Adyar and Coovum basins for funding assistance and the work was completed under the supervision of TNUIFSL.
The KfW Development Bank consented to fund the Kovalam basin and appointed M/s Kocks Consultant for a thorough study of all areas - Kottivakkam, Palavakkam, Neelankarai, Uthandi, and Sholinganallur. After consulting and conducting a series of meetings with residents, final estimates and drawings were submitted with a ‘No objection to go ahead’.