Source segregation in North Chennai up from 20% to more than 30% in just three months: P Akash, RDC North


A resident adds to the growing mound of garbage beside an already overflowing bin at Kasi Chetty Street of Parrys Corner.
A resident adds to the growing mound of garbage beside an already overflowing bin at Kasi Chetty Street of Parry's Corner. Pic: Laasya Shekhar

History says that the origins of the city of Madras lie in the north. But, for various reasons, North Chennai has remained one of the least developed regions in the city. Unmilled roads, lack of sewer connections and traffic congestion are among the many basic issues that plague the northern parts of the city. 

“The problems faced in the city as a whole is generally aggravated in North Chennai. But there has been steady development,” said P Akash, IAS, Regional Deputy Commissioner (North) Chennai Corporation, in an exclusive interview with Citizen Matters Chennai. 

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the most pressing issues of North Chennai at this juncture? 

Infrastructurally, North Chennai is not as well provided for as the core regions of the city. From proper roads to stormwater drains and sewer connections, a lot remains to be done. Road improvement projects can be expected once the metro rail work is completed. Besides solid waste management, which is also a pressing problem, all other issues observed in Central and South Chennai are only aggravated in North Chennai. 

P Akash IAS, Regional Deputy Commissioner (North) Chennai Corporation

What is your strategy to ensure solid waste management here? 

We are focusing on source segregation since unsegregated waste poses a problem. We monitor the performance of the waste collectors, identify volunteers within the community to educate citizens on waste management and push commercial establishments and Resident Welfare Associations to segregate waste. 

Has it been effective?

Yes, very much. Four months ago, a conservancy worker was collecting an average of 16 kilos of segregated waste from 250 houses every day. The number has increased to an average of 200 kilos a day now.  The overall percentage of source segregation in the North has increased from 20% in October 2019 to 31% in January 2020.  

Source segregation per cent of various zones in Chennai North

Zone October 2019 (in %) January 2020 (in %)
Thiruvottiyur 25 35
Manali* 100 100
Madhavaram 55 90
Tondiarpet 11 22
Royapuram 9 26

*Manali has been announced a zero-waste zone. 

Source: Greater Chennai Corporation

What challenges do you face in achieving the zero-waste goal across zones of the North? 

The five zones in the region are diverse and so are their problems, calling for ground-level analysis. For example, Thiruvottiyur is a fisherfolk-dominated area and segregation can be pushed only through volunteers within the community.

Manali has been announced zero waste, but 100% achievement can come about only through a multi-pronged process. Dumping waste in vacant lands is a major problem here, which is being addressed through regular monitoring by flying squads. 

Madhavaram zone has enough infrastructure to process wet waste, but there is a need for more Resource Recovery Centres (RRC), where dry waste of economic value is collected for reuse or recycle. Madhavaram is expected to be zero-garbage in about a couple of months. There is a proposal to construct MCCs to process more than 200 tonnes of wet waste a day.

Similar plans to add RRCs and monitor the performance of conservancy workers are in place for Tondiarpet and Royapuram zones as well.

Parts of the region such as Thiruvottiyur and Vannarpettai have street vendors taking up road space, leading to traffic congestion. Is there a plan to address this?

 It is in flux. There is work to be completed from our side too, I admit. But we are also awaiting clarity on legal processes, as the project to streamline them has been challenged in the Madras High Court. However, Chennai Corporation has identified vending zones and non-vending zones across the city. We are hopeful about allotting them space and licenses in about five months. 

Haphazard parking and traffic congestion is a major problem in commercial areas such as Parry’s Corner and Mint…

Chennai Corporation has taken up a long-term project to introduce off-street parking. The idea is to charge a minimum for parking and impose heavy penalties on those who park illegally. As part of the project, hundreds of slots, where traffic is a huge menace, are being identified in North Chennai. Around 7000 slots for car parking have been identified in the city.  

Traffic chaos at Chennai Central Railway station.

How has the response to the Namma Chennai app been? 

The application is a good parameter to assess the grievances of citizens. We receive a lot of complaints about defunct street lights, potholes, dog menace and garbage issues. In 2019, we received a total of 1204 complaints through the app, of which the officials cleared 1182 grievances. A total of 22 complaints are pending. 

Work on renovation of the Elephant Gate Bridge appears to be progressing at a very slow pace. When can we expect completion?

Southern Railways is the nodal agency for the project, that includes demolition and reconstruction of the bridge. The bridges department of Chennai Corporation is coordinating with the Railways for the project. Tenders are ready with the Railways. Currently, we are waiting for Tangedco to shift the electricity cables running over the bridge. 

How is the facelift for Ripon Building and Victoria Hall coming up? 

Chennai Corporation kickstarted the work last year, after completion of the metro rail project on this stretch. The (facelift) work is in progress and will be completed soon. The building department of the Corporation is coordinating with Chennai Metro Rail Limited for the project. 

A lot of arterial roads such as Sollaippan Street in Vannarpettai were relaid without milling. What do you have to say about that?

Milling is a mandatory procedure, that is supposed to be done. I will definitely check the issue. Meanwhile, I also request the citizens to call up the Corporation toll free number 1913 to complain about the grievances.

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About Laasya Shekhar 287 Articles
Laasya Shekhar is an independent journalist based in Chennai with previous stints in Newslaundry, Citizen Matters and Deccan Chronicle. Laasya holds a Masters degree in Journalism from Bharathiar University and has written extensively on environmental issues, women and child rights, and other critical social and civic issues. She tweets at @plaasya.