CHENNAI: Samuel Merigala The Public Works Department’s (PWD) cut-and-cover drain project in Chitlapakkam has made life miserable for the residents of Maruthu Pandi Street and Babu Street. For over three months, residents have been forced to cling on to compound walls as they enter and exit these stretches which have been dug up. When the PWD, without any notice, began digging up the streets in late October 2018, residents expected the ordeal to last a month.
But three months later and with little progress to show, residents don’t see this torture ending anytime soon. “The contractor began filling up the dug-up roads with a concrete mix only a few days ago,” said SA Sampath, a resident of Babu Street, explaining how residents have been forced to curtail their activity because of this slow-moving project.
Maruthu Pandi Street and Babu Street — a continuous stretch — house over 50 families and this inconvenience has pushed most of them to a breaking point. “It is depressing to see my parents stuck at home and unable to go for walks. Our vehicles are also scattered in the locality and we know it hasn’t been stolen only when we see it every morning,” Sampath said. K Kirubakaran, another resident on the stretch, has a pregnant wife in addition to old parents to worry about. “My wife is at her parents’ house because if there is any emergency, she won’t be able to exit this dug-up stretch by clinging on to compound walls,” he said, explaining how the project has been poorly implemented. This ordeal has even started chasing residents out of the locality.
The entire area is dependent on borewells for water, but as summer approaches, borewells have started going dry and residents cannot hail water tankers to their rescue. “My neighbour just moved to his relatives’ place because the borewell in his house went dry,” said Kirubakaran, claiming he stares at a similar fate with his own borewell drying up. Local activism group Chitlapakkam Rising had lashed out at discrepancies in the project when it was kicked off and residents believe that this is the PWD’s way of getting back at them for thwarting corruption. PWD assistant executive engineer Radhakrishnan, who is monitoring this project, was not available for comment despite multiple attempts to reach him.