Despite heavy rains, this Thiruvanmiyur road saw no flooding; here’s why!

CITIZEN CHANGEMAKER

Radhakrishnan Nagar Main Road after the rains. Pic: Geeta Padmanabhan

The 18-cm rainfall that lashed the metropolis (Nungambakkam station) on Thursday and Friday  has left many arterial roads in bad shape. Knee-deep water, loose electrical wires and potholes are a common sight in the city now.

At a time when the city’s poor civic infrastructure and lack of planning is all too evident, it is a pleasant surprise to be on this one road in Thiruvanmiyur, which looks clean and almost dry, and that too within half an hour of  the downpour.

A view of the stagnated Radhakrishnan Nagar Main Road during 2015 floods. Pic: Geeta Padmanabhan

Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Main Road, connecting Kalakshetra Road and M G Road is not a ‘high profile road’, or the address of prominent politicians or officers. The same road had in fact been marooned during the December 2015 floods, but the reality today is vastly different because it now has a comprehensive storm water drain network and a safe footpath, thanks to the dedicated efforts of a citizen.

Meet Geeta Padmanabhan, a septuagenarian from the locality, whose perseverance has saved more than 3000 families and many more commuters the harrowing flood experiences that so many other Chennaites have faced ever since the northeast monsoon set in. Residents who woke up on Friday morning expecting to wade through the waters were surprised to see the clear road.

After the devastation witnessed during the December 2015 floods, Geeta, a journalist, decided to counter the inaction of the Greater Chennai Corporation by taking charge herself, thus setting the wheels of change in motion. The footpath Of Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Main Road, which ran above the stormwater drain, was at that time taken up by  illegal ramps, junction boxes and manholes.  

Clearing the footpaths

Geeta is also the secretary of the newly formed association called RMSM (Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar, Malaviya Avenue, Sivakamipuram, Marundeeswarara Avenue) Peoples Security and Welfare Association. Her fight, however, wasn’t easy. Recollecting the struggle, she says, “The footpath work was incomplete when the 2015 December rains lashed the city. The house owners who had constructed the illegal ramps ganged up against me when I had them removed, and began to abuse me online and offline. I stood my ground, got the engineers to visit the place and made them follow my design.”  

An architect couple from the neighborhood – N Deviprasad and Kavitha Prasad – played a major role by designing the road and changing it in accordance with the corporation’s plan. “They didn’t charge a penny for doing it. Their contribution to the project is invaluable,” Geeta says, in a grateful tone.

From the contractor to the corporation commissioner, she was constantly in touch with all the concerned officials to ensure the completion of the work undertaken.  “I visited the office many times and kept calling them to inspect the locality,” she added.

Work on the footpaths was completed by June last year, after which she got the existing storm water drains repaired. “The drain has been around for decades. I just got portions of it redone and had a new one made at the S-bend to ensure smooth flow of water. The footpath runs on top, facilitating walking on this busy road. Either way, it is a win-win situation,” she pointed out.

Redesigning the storm water drain

Besides pursuing the officials, Geeta personally monitored the storm water drain work, ensuring that it got connected to a proper recharging medium. It is now well connected to the one on MG road from where the water moves towards Indira Nagar to escape into the Buckingham canal.  In response to her calls, the assistant engineer at Chennai Corporation has cleared the holes leading into the storm water drain in Sivakamipuram.

Never say die

Geeta Padmanabhan

Drain repair was just one part of the job. In the run up to that, Geeta also got an old transformer, which was blocking the footpath, relocated to a safer place.

“It took me two years to get this simple task done. After that, I fought with the corporation for a footpath before they laid the road. It was a long and sustained fight at many levels. I submitted blueprints, brought corporation engineers to visit the area, quoted the Indian Road Congress rules and visited the Chennai Corporation several times to have the task completed,” explains Geeta.

So what is her success mantra? A staunch believer in the power of citizen participation, she says, “Never give up. Know the rules and learn about the duties and responsibility of the civic body. Click pictures and submit them with cogent arguments and demand action. It is taxpayers’ money that is used and we should always fight shoddy work.”

Laasya Shekhar
About Laasya Shekhar 7 Articles
Laasya Shekhar is Senior Reporter at Citizen Matters Chennai. She tweets at @plaasya.

15 Comments

  1. Kudos to Madam Geetha. Really a fantastic achievement and an eye opener to the younger generation. Madam Geetha took this as a great opportunity and made the task so simple and created awareness among the people. Those who are living in Chennai for generations know that Chennai is prone to get heavy rainfall once in 4 years. Instead of talking and criticising the government, Madam Geetha took a wise decision to act against all odds. It is a great lesson to youngsters and elders. We, the citizens of Greater Chennai have a great responsibility to play our part within our limitations. We have to take a pledge to preserve water bodies and reservoirs. Water is a precious commodity and our life source. We should not allow rain water to go waste. Nobody knows the value of Rain Water Harvesting inspite of repeated requests from government agencies. We are doing the same mistake year after year without knowing the value of preservation of water. Hereafter the government should take stringent action against those who are violating the laws and build houses across water courses. The government should also make RWH mandatory to all households in Tamilnadu. Desilting of rivers and reservoirs are to be done periodically by the government’s concerned to avoid flooding and wastage of water. We, as the residents of Chennai, should always remember the 2015 December flooding in our mind and we have to get things done only by way of collective efforts. Madam Geetha showed us the way as a guidance. This is the right time we have to wake up quickly and act. Thank you Madam Geetha for your stupendous task.

  2. hats off you to Madam. You have done a great job. It would be great if other residents associations also follow suit. Waiting for the govt and corpn to do what we need is not worth

  3. Dear Geetha , Hats off to your achievements regarding the storm water drains which successfully drained the water from our area(Sivakamipuram) during the heavy rains and we could witness a ‘Never have seen before’ clear roads during the rains. You will always have our cooperation and support in your future endeavour also.

  4. This is most ridiculous article I’ve read. Resident volunteers of RK nagar should have felt bad when read this.

    Geetha padhbanaban had nothing to do with this to renovate the main road.

  5. Super madam, My sincere wishes to your good effort.Pls think of a grand network of good social service minded people

  6. It is sick that few residents can’t accept the success story of Geeta. I accept that the Association participated in the protest emanding good civic infrastructure. But why didn’t the members of the association continue the struggle? Why has the association gone defunct now ? Heights of intolerance.

  7. Few residents were envious when the then corporation commissioner, Vikram Kapur inspected the locality and praised Geeta for her dedicated efforts. They couldn’t take the fact that a ‘woman’has come to the limelight, through her genuine service

  8. @ Responsible RK Nagar resident – First off, if you really were a resident, you’ll not be saying what you did coz you’d know the truth is otherwise. You admitting to just the association protest is meaningless so you might as well accept the association did everything else too, including redesigning the flawed footpath that was Geeta’s legacy, with 21 storm water inlets buried. Where did you pull out the ‘association is defunct’ story? The association is stronger than ever having set up 40 CCTV cameras all over the area for security. Of course I’m guessing your source Geeta Padmanaban wouldn’t have told you that lest her lies become apparent. Unless you are Geeta herself writing anonymously. Fact is that she has done nothing good and worse still she was a source of impediment at every step, putting hurdles in the way of the association members. If she deserved accolades we’d all gladly give it to her but it’s just unbelievable that she would shamelessly take credit for things she never did. You should ask around the area and you’ll know what the truth is.

  9. Forwarding you all a message from Sh N S Srinivasa Gandhi, one of the Founder Presidents of the Association (the other founders being Sh S Venkatraman and Late K Seshan) – “I had come across a news item a few days back wherein credit was claimed, of course undeservedly, by one Geetha Padmanaban for the excellent pre-monsoon efforts initiated by the current office bearers the singular result of which is the amazing cleanliness and non-stagnation of water. I have been a personal witness to the Corporation officials driving the workers to do all required work well in time – again at the instance of the current team of office bearers who are enjoying and maintaining an excellent rapport with all who matter. Heartiest compliments to the team.”

  10. That’s wonderful to hear. Wish the rest of the city also wakes up early and take initiatives to make space for water conservation. It serves double purpose – 1. Potable drinking water 2. Prevent flooding

    Hats off Geetha mam.

  11. hats of geetha madam, you have done a great job you are a role model of youth generation. you have learnt to polictical leaders

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