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How Chennai Is Trying To Become A ‘Smart City’ After Last Year’s Devastating Flood

Posted on April 28, 2016 in Society

By Soumya Gupta:

An aerial view shows a flooded residential colony in Chennai, India, December 6, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTX1XEWO
Image credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

Chennai is all set to be a smart city by the end of 2019. But, wait! How can anyone forget Chennai’s condition during the floods in 2015? All the infrastructure and the municipal corporation’s tall claims about being prepared for the November-December monsoons failed terribly.

In the fourth-largest metropolitan city of India, also a city of engineers, how can one fail to have good city planning? The Tamil Nadu government is trying hard to gauge all the loopholes and mend them, especially for ‘Greater Chennai’. 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 and to a brand new pet-project, called the ‘Non-motorized transport’ system (NMT). 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% 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 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 added smilingly. A major feature of this project is to collect stormwater and channel it in a proper way so that in the future, natural calamities cannot harm us in the way it happened last year. 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. Considering minimal damage to the environment and a reduction in pollution, separate sewage and rainwater drainage pipes are being constructed. 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.

There was no stormwater 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 also suggested that if these problems were addressed properly, it 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.