Rais­ing a stink: Buck­ing­ham Canal threat­en­ing to over­flow


With the mon­soon con­tin­u­ing, wa­ter level in the stink­ing Buck­ing­ham Canal is threat­en­ing to cut off flood­ing ad­ja­cent areas from Tiru­van­miyur to Mut­tukadu.

Poor main­te­nance of the canal has greatly re­duced its car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, due to enor­mous silt for­ma­tion and en­croach­ments on ei­ther side. This has even­tu­ally led to nar­row­ing of its width. As per a sub­mis­sion made by the Public Works Depart­ment be­fore the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) bench, the planned canal widen­ing from Tiru­van­miyur to Okkiyam Maduvu was 40 me­tres, but the ac­tual com­po­nent of works ex­e­cuted and doc­u­ments sub­mit- ted re­vealed the canal had been widened only up to 30m.

A check by this cor­re­spon­dent on Saturday showed how grim the sit­u­a­tion was. In the stretch be­tween Kot­ti­vakkam and Nee­lankarai, wa­ter had filled to the brim of the foot­bridges across the canal.

Vi­jay­alak­shmi, a res­i­dent of Nee­lankarai, ex­pressed fear of flood­ing, sim­i­lar to what had hap­pened in 2015. The canal and houses ad­join­ing the wa­ter­way were al­most on the same level. This was due to the fact that there was no ap­pre­cia­ble depth in the canal and there was no side bund for pro­tec­tion.

A makeshift bridge con­structed by the lo­cal coun­cil­lor re­cently had col­lapsed. In the same lo­cal­ity, there was a heavy flow of froth in­duced sewage flow­ing through the con­duit into the canal pol- lut­ing the wa­ter fur­ther. Res­i­dents feared that an­other two days of down­pour was enough for the canal to over­flow and sub­merge the houses.

Jawa­har­lal Shan­mugam, a so­cial ac­tivist, who has been fight­ing for the restora­tion of Buck­ing­ham Canal in the NGT from 2015, said it was time for a holis­tic ap­proach by the govern­ment de­part­ments con­cerned to ad­dress the se­ri­ous is­sue im­me­di­ately.

Buck­ing­ham Canal is the only chan­nel for flood wa­ter to drain into the sea af­ter cut­ting across areas of eco­nomic im­por­tance such as Old Ma­ha­balipu­ram Road (OMR) and many g ated com­mu­ni­ties.

It is ironic that in the name of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment of OMR, ba­sic civic ameni­ties such as stormwa­ter drains, sewer lines, drink­ing wa­ter and proper roads have not been pro­vided all these years, res­i­dents said.

To­day, a big por­tion of de­vel­op­ment had taken place in a marshy land, which had ear­lier been a won­der­ful wa­ter­body and also a flood wa­ter car­rier. Due to un­prece­dented tor­ren­tial rain, the OMR cor­ri­dor gets flooded even at the be­gin­ning of the North­east mon­soon.

Flood wa­ter from Tam­baram and Se­laiyur will have to reach Ke­lam­bakkam and Navalur, Thazham­bur, Perum­bakkam and Sholin­ganal­lur and drain into Pal­likaranai marsh.

From there, it will tra­verse Okkiyam Maduvu to reach Buck­ing­ham Canal and ul­ti­mately reach Mut­tukadu to drain into the sea. Any ob­struc­tion in this path will be dis­as­trous. PWD of­fi­cials in two mo­torised boats re­move a thick car­pet of wa­ter hyacinth from Buck­ing­ham Canal on Sun­day. The blan­ket of in­va­sive species is ob­struct­ing free flow of wa­ter |

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