Just like that, another year is over. And a decade too. At Citizen Matters Chennai, it has been an important year for us – not only did we write 280 stories, we also reached 1.8 million page views with an average of 150,000 views per month (in comparison we had 433,000 page views in 2018). We also have many new contributors, who bring rich diversity in perspectives and writing styles to our magazine. Freelance writers Sandhya Raju, Swati Amar, Mahesh V and Varun Sukumar have added to our coverage with their writing on a myriad pressing issues facing Chennai. Most importantly, several Citizen Journalists, who form the backbone of our on-the-ground reporting of hyper local issues, have weighed in on subjects that have greatly resonated with our readers.
As we look ahead to many exciting milestones in 2020, I’d like to look back and share with you some of our favourite stories from the year.
1. We don’t want trees in Chennai: Kotturpuram, and indeed all of Chennai, mourned the loss of over a 100 carefully nurtured trees and shrubs. As cities continue to grapple with effects of climate change and loss of green cover, Chennai residents must continue to be vigilant about protecting their trees.
2. Adyar River restoration: More than Rs 2500 crores sanctioned, but dumping continues: We must keep up the efforts to stop the illegal dumping of sewage in the rivers that flow through Chennai, says Laasya as she shares with us her favourite story. It has data, pictures, quotes from officials and extensive research – all the ingredients that make for a good article.
3. With PM10 above national standards, why is Chennai not included in NCAP?: Aruna asked this question in February, much before anyone else did, and certainly well before Chennai had its Delhi moment of air pollution in the weeks of and after Deepavali. Air pollution is a major killer in our cities, and we will continue to write about it in 2020.
4. Why does actor Rajinikanth pay less tax than Nagarajan of Nanganallur?: The revised property tax rates which was recently rolled-back by the government was a subject of much grief for residents when it was in effect. Through her deft analogy, Laasya managed to capture the absurdity of the discrepancies in fixing property tax rates that saw residents of localities in the center of the city pay less than those in the suburbs of Chennai.
5. Why MTC ridership fell by over 20 crores in a year For a city whose public bus network was its pride and joy, Chennai’s public bus ridership has seen a precipitous fall, and the fleet is in decline. Aruna worked hard to capture accurate data that reflect the state of the city’s bus network, in this widely read story.
6. A bangle for a dream A young student of journalism shared a poignant account of slum dwellers who live under the constant threat of eviction.
Our coverage of the water crisis in Chennai bears special mention. The severe water scarcity faced by the city became the focal point this year. Our bank of stories on the issue provides a comprehensive timeline of the crisis that came to head in the summer. Right from reading early warning signs on the looming crisis to looking at possible causes for the acute scarcity, we continued to report in-depth about the issue. We also looked at the effect the crisis has on the city’s most vulnerable, the urban poor and women. Our coverage also included a critical look at the much vaunted solution proposed, desalination and the effect it has on the environment. We also looked at community efforts to tide over the crisis and special initiatives such as the water train.
I have hope. That our cities will keep improving, citizens will continue caring about how and where they live, and our donors will keep supporting us in bringing to our readers these stories of hope and change.
Happy New Year from all of us at Citizen Matters and Oorvani Foundation!