Chennai: Time To Replan The City

Can anyone forget Chennai’s floods of 2015? Induced by unplanned construction, the flood washed away the city infrastructure and became live example of what unplanned development can do to a city. A look at how the city is recovering and revamping its entire transportation plan to become a smart city by the year 2019.


Chennai is all set to be a smart city by the end of 2019. However the memories of the devastating floods is still fresh with the citizen that washed out tall claims of Chennai Municipal Corporation. All the city machinery, infrastructure and the urban local body’s claims about being prepared for the November-December monsoons failed terribly making it a case study for city planners across the globe. What went wrong with the city planning of the-largest metropolitan city of India, also a city of engineers, is still a subject matter for study and discussion.

Two years down the lane, the Tamil Nadu government is trying hard to gauge all the loopholes and mend them, especially for ‘Greater Chennai’, which is selected to be developed as one of the 66 smart cities, selected to be developed under the Smart Cities Mission of the Centre. The Greater Chennai Corporation has announced plans to upgrade this transportation, drainage system, and water supply. Under the ‘Smart City Project’, the focus will be put on to enhancing the storm-water drainage system which will prevent the water-logging and to a brand new pet-project, called the ‘Non-motorized transport’ system (NMT).

Storm Water Drainage

This project had been announced in around October 2014, looking at which the work is being done pretty speedily,” said J. Babu Rajendran, Chief Engineer of the Storm Water Drainage (SWD) Department.
“The proposal-making for the ‘Integrated SWD project’ began in 2011-12. The government is very enthusiastic about this project as it will present Chennai an edge over the other metropolitan cities,” he further added.

A major feature of this project is to collect storm water and channel it in a proper way so that in the future, natural calamities cannot harm the city like it did in 2015.
“Extensive work is being done on four different rivers in Tamil Nadu, including the Adyar and Cooum river which has already consumed an estimated cost of Rs. 1,102 crores”, said J. Babu. The Kovalam and Kosasthalaiyar Basin projects will start from 2016 as soon as they get funding from World Bank and other sources, he added.

The ongoing projects also include special responsibilities like convenient relocation for people, suitable compensation and minimising the harm to the environment.
“Generally, sewage and rainwater drainage pipes are put together in order to smoothen the water flow but it poses a huge risk of water contamination”, said Dr. S. Ganapathy Venkata, a Professor at Centre for Environmental Studies at Anna University.

This time the authorities have taken special care of the water contamination and separate sewage and rainwater drainage pipes are being constructed, which according to Venkata will reduce the water pollution level.

And he added that earlier there was no storm water drainage system in the Adyar river because of which water coming from Chembarambakkam Lake and rainwater flowed together leading to excessive flooding in the previous monsoon.

He suggested that if these problems were addressed properly and if the city authorities are able to plan the water flow, it would also solve the water woes of the city and would help in irrigation facilities, gardening and so on. Emphasising water reuse techniques, he added that these steps will really reduce the water problems in Chennai.

Non-Motorised Transport

Non-motorised transport is designed to give emphasis to pedestrians to engage in walking, cycling, for pushcarts and other forms of mobility that are powered by humans. The basic idea of this project is to ensure that the street design is favourable for the pedestrians and it aims to make the experience on the roads a cleaner, greener and safer one. By increasing the space for walking, they want to reduce the existing vehicles in Chennai. The plan is to make the roads user-friendly for the kids, old and the disabled by expanding the use of zero pollution modes of transport as well.

Every zone falling under the NMT would promote the use of public transportation. The plan also includes widening of roads, footpaths, making carriage-ways, expanding the vehicle parking space, increasing the illumination on roads, consistent signage on the roads and navigation systems guiding you to the next connecting transport system.

“In order to make a smart city, we have to see every aspect of a city from infrastructure to the basic facilities that are required for a person,” said Bob, an Executive Engineer of the Smart City project.

This project is an ambitious one and needs a huge amount of funds to make it possible, a lot of the funds for the storm-water project and the NMT has come from the World Bank and the rest of it is coming from other localised sources and about 60 per cent of the sponsorship fund has already been approved.

“One last leg of the project has to be approved and the rest of the fund is expected to be released by the next six months to one year or so. Rs. 1,200 crore is expected to come for the zone XII and XIII Greater Chennai project.

This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated '' with cover story titled 'Cities On the Move'

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