CHENNAI: In a shocking development that would hamper Chennai’s flood-mitigation mechanism, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), which operates under the Union Ministry of Shipping and implements the National Waterways-4 project, including the upkeep of the Buckingham Canal, has decided to shut its regional office located inside the Indian Maritime University.
The office is reportedly being shifted to Vijayawada to assist Andhra Pradesh government in building its new capital Amaravati.
Sources said the AP government has requested development of the stretch between Vijayawada and Muktiyala of River Krishna for movement of cargo for the construction of Amaravati, for which a scheme was prepared and placed before the IWAI Board for taking up dredging operation. Separately, a proposal for terminal facilities on this stretch has also been prepared.
Speaking exclusively to Express, a top IWAI official confirmed the development and said orders had already been received. “We are asked to move to Vijayawada and will be relocating in another 10 days. I agree this would hamper the developmental works in the south Buckingham canal from Sholinganallur to Marakkanam. Liasoning, issuing work orders and monitoring work progress will be an issue.”
Now, the question remains: What is the need to close the office in Chennai, a city that was left naked against nature’s fury during the December deluge which many attribute to poor maintenance of the city’s waterways such as the Buckingham canal, Cooum and Adyar rivers?
In 2014, the IWAI opened its regional office here for the sole purpose of improving the condition of the Buckingham canal, especially the southern section. With the new move, the fate of Buckingham canal, which is the only drain available connecting the Pallikaranai marsh via Okkiyam Madavu, will be unknown.
On the status of current developmental projects in the south Buckingham canal, the IWAI officials said a project for development of the stretch from Sholinganallur and Kalpakkam at an estimated cost of `123.40 crore was sanctioned during January, 2014. The TN government was requested for identification of land, and a presentation to the Chief Secretary was made again on October 27, 2015. The State government is yet to respond.
At the last hearing, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had lambasted the IWAI for making a false submission. The body had submitted a 2009 office memorandum and claimed that it did not have jurisdiction to carry out any operations from the Ennore sea-mouth to Muthukad. However, the IWAI, in an affidavit submitted before the NGT earlier, said the excluded stretch had been modified from Ennore to Shollinganallur via office memorandum on January 21, 2014. The NGT has taken cognisance of this and summoned an official to be present in the court at the next hearing.
Several trucks collecting untreated sewage from apartment complexes on OMR and ECR, where Metro Water does not have drainage network, are dumping sewage illegally into the canal.
With the office’s closure, such activities will rise, said Jawaharlal Shanmugam, petitioner in the NGT Buckingham canal case.