Urban infrastructure projects announced by various government departments have hit a stumbling block in Chennai, since the expiry of the last city council in October 2016. A handful of ideas announced by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) were languishing at varying stages of implementation, several of them still at a very preliminary stage. Several other projects taken up by the highways department have also been in suspension.
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We inquired into three such significant projects in Chennai and the problems that impede completion.
Pallavaram flyover skips deadline
When the highways department commenced the construction works of the three lane unidirectional flyover on Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road, road users were a happy lot. With the allotted budget of Rs 68.86 Crore, the project took off on September 2015, and was set for completion by June 2018.
The flyover would be a respite for road users once completed, as motorists could cruise over three congested blocks at Alstom signal, Pallavaram Sandai Road and Kundrathur Road. But due to the ongoing construction, motorists’ woes have only worsened. They now have to navigate another gridlock, as traffic has been diverted to the narrow Old Trunk Road, where vehicles can only move forward an inch at a time.
The overall traffic scenario in the area calls for speedy completion of the works. “More than half of the road space is taken up by construction activities now, so all vehicles come to a halt when buses stop at the bus stop. The only permanent solution would be to speed up the flyover works,” said Tamizhan C, an auto driver at Pallavaram.
The 2018 deadline has come and gone, and given the current pace at which work is progressing, realistically the project does not seem to be poised for completion any time soon. V Santhanam, a civic activist who filed an RTI, to understand the proceedings of work said, “The road connecting Pallavaram to Pammal needs to be widened, to accommodate the flyover at this part. But the officials have not even completed the land acquisition itself.”
A senior official from the Metro wing of the highways department attributed the delay to the non availability of river sand for construction. “Many projects in the state have been stalled due to this constraint. We are expecting the flyover works to be completed in less than a year,” he added.
Where are the fish markets ?
It has been close to six years since Chennai Corporation announced that it would construct 20 modernised fish markets. Former Mayor, Ma Subramaniam insisted on the project, in order to help the fishermen community escape exploitation by private players. “We end up paying high rents in the private fish markets and thus saving very little. This has one of the reasons behind fishermen slowly giving up the profession,” says K Bharathi of the South Indian Fishermen’s Association.
The proposed modernised fish markets, with hygienic stalls and adequate storage space, would also attract more among the the fish-eating population and therefore, provide a boost to the livelihood of the fishermen. “It is the stench on the shore that keeps people away from buying fish. The fish market project was expected to change the ambience,” said Gnana Kumar, a fisherman at Besant Nagar.
“Soon after the announcement, the civic body had zeroed in on land at a few places including Mylapore and Otteri. But, the project was shelved after the (previous) council changed,” Ma Subramaniam told Citizen Matters.
A senior corporation official said that there has been no funds allocated to the project yet. “We are experiencing a funds crunch, that makes it difficult to maintain even the existing schemes. At this point, it would be a tall ask to take up new projects,” said the official.
Unfulfilled promises over a road over bridge
The road over bridge at Korukkupet was among the significant projects announced by the former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in 2012. The project attracted eyeballs due to its location in the R K Nagar constituency, from which Jayalalithaa contested.
The foundation stone of the Rs 116-crore project was laid in February 2016, after thorough research. The ROB aimed to ease up traffic on Manali – Kathivakkam highway. Traffic bottlenecks here can be mainly attributed to the frequent closure of two railway gates at Nehru Nagar and Ezhil Nagar. R Lokanathan, district secretary member of the CPM said, “Whenever a goods train plies, gates are closed for more than half an hour, resulting in traffic accumulation. The road over bridge will ease the situation.”
A traffic police official said that the works had been stopped due to the ongoing metro rail construction at the nearby Tiruvottiyur -Vannarpet Road. Residents have a suggestion. “During construction, two-wheelers and autos can be diverted towards the makeshift ROB that exists. However, considering that trucks have been increasing in North Chennai, a permanent ROB is the need of the hour.”
It’s not just these three. There are several other projects that have been shelved. Amma Women’s hostel, a facelift for the Attipattu dump yard, two-wheeler subway near St Thomas Mount railway station are among prominent infrastructure projects that never saw the light of day. Despite perseverance from the citizens, the projects have not been initiated, due to various reasons including non-prioritisation and funds crunch.