A swarm of flies buzz noisily as Indrani, a resident living right next to the open canal, is chopping vegetables. Living in the locality for years, she has become used to the stench – which according to her – becomes unbearable during summer. “The water from canals in other neighbourhoods, linked to this, often stagnates here, because there is a blockage at this point. The water doesn’t flow to the next point, which is then conveyed to the Otteri Nala nearby. Once a week, the officials try to superficially take out the garbage, but it is of no use. When it rains, the water flows on to the main road and deposits the garbage there. The stench is unbearable during the hot weather,” she added.
Recalling a recent incident, she said, “During the recent rains, six dead dogs were rotting in this canal. I dug them out and transported them in a basket to the nearest dustbin, for the officials to clear. If I didn’t do that, the entire area will be stinking,” she said, adding that the locality faces severe mosquito menace, due to the polluted canal.
The Greater Chennai Corporation had evicted residents from Konnur High Road on the pretext of flood-mitigation efforts. “But the debris has been left behind since January. If they cleared that, maybe the water will flow freely?” suggested Ramya, a flower vendor.
Following the trail of the canal revealed several open drains, posing a huge threat for the residents. The culverts – conveying water from this canal to the Otteri Nala – are broken in multiple places. In fact, outside the Koti M Abbu Chettiar High School, which has around 50 students, the entrance is marked by debris, with gaping slashes, revealing the culverts. An official from the school said that they have requested the Corporation to cover the open areas, carrying the sewage infested waters. “The officials have asked us to wait, as there are several infrastructure projects lined up for the locality. We have asked our students to come through the smaller entrance, right next to the big gate. We wait outside to ensure that students enter the premises safely,” said the official.
When contacted, a Corporation official said that while the civic body is proposing to construct stormwater drains in these roads to channel the runoff, the maintenance of the canal itself comes under the Public Works Department (PWD). “We clear wherever we can or if we get a complaint. But the maintenance is not our jurisdiction,” said the official.
Activist Hemraj V, who works in a private organisation in the vicinity, said that the open canal poses a huge health risk for the residents. “Around the canal, which is infested with sewage water, fruits and vegetables are sold in makeshift markets. This can be a huge public health hazard and can give way to infectious diseases. The stench and pollution will severely impact the health of the local community,” he said.