CHENNAI: The residential areas between Kottivakkam and Uthandi on the seaward side of East Coast Road (ECR), where Greater Chennai Corporation proposed the controversial Integrated Storm Water Drain (ISWD) project, reported zero flooding or waterlogging despite receiving record rains for the past few days.
While Chennai is literally drowning, it's business as usual in these areas that are built on sandy soil and a naturally formed contiguous fresh water aquifer, which soaks up any amount of rainwater. Then, why is the corporation so eager to build storm water drains here spending hundreds of crores of taxpayers money?
Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday said an inquiry would be launched into irregularities that took place under the smart cities programme implemented in Chennai during the AIADMK regime. V Suresh, advocate and resident of Kapaleeshwarar Nagar in Neelankarai, told The New Indian Express the government should investigate the necessity and feasibility of this storm water drain project.
Suresh represented several resident welfare associations who opposed the ISWD project moving the southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) and obtained a stop work order.
The New Indian Express visited several residential localities from Palavakkam to Uthandi on Monday, which is a day after unprecedented downpour, and found hardly any waterlogging, except for stagnation in some open plots.
Gautam Ramdas, member of Juhu Beach Residents' Association in Uthandi, said it's completely illogical to drain precious rainwater into the sea, instead of being allowed to percolate into the aquifer. While, the corporation officials claim only 'excess' water will be led into the sea, however there is no excess water. "There is no need for the ISWD in Juhu beach. Rainwater gets absorbed into the aquifer within a day. We had no flooding even during the 2015 deluge," he said.
About 1.5 km of storm water drains were built in the Juhu layout in different portions of varying size and dimensions. In the stretch that leads to the beach, half the road is covered with the drain and outfall is on the beach elevated defying gradient.
Similar faulty design drains were built in VGP layout in Uthandi, where again no waterlogging was noticed. Prabhu Nambiappan, resident, said during every monsoon there is water stagnation in the OSR land located on the beach. The corporation officials showed it as flooding to force ISWD in their community.
Residents of VGP layout in Palavakkam and Seashore Town in Panayur have also made similar complaints when The New Indian Express visited. Lata Ganapathy, secretary of VGP Resident Welfare Association in Palavakkam, said a shrimp factory in the neighborhood had broke open its compound wall to drain the water into their community, flooding a few streets in 2015. "Those images were used by corporation to portray our locality as vulnerable to built ISWD. Also, an open low lying area near the beach which people use as a playground and water gets stored during monsoon is depicted as flood waters."
Green solution to negate waterlogging
In Kapaleeshwar Nagar in Neelankarai, where few low lying streets face waterlogging during monsoon, residents have found a green solution to it. They built multiple percolation pits at own cost, which solved the problem. "We do not need massive structures like ISWD for a localised problem. Few percolation pits, rainwater harvesting structures are enough." Several other residents in other localities have also echoed similar sentiment.
ISWD is an environment disaster
As per the Second Master Plan 2026 of Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, the areas of Kottivakkam, Palavakkam, Neelankarai, Okkiamthuraipakkam, Injambakkam, Karapakkam, Sholinganallur and Uthandi fall within the region classified as 'Aquifer Recharge Zone'.
The beaches from Kottivakkam to Kovalam have also been classified as Olive Ridley turtles nesting sites. Turtle nesting sides, as per the CRZ Notification, 2011, are ecologically sensitive areas. As per the design, the ISWD will be connected to 27 outfalls along the coast, where they will end on the beach for the excess water to be discharged into the sea. This would bring all the trash and pollutants, while eroding the beaches, said a resident of Seacliff in Akkarai.
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