Residents along the east coast in Chennai are up in arms against the construction of concrete storm water drains by the Greater Chennai Corporation to prevent inundation. These areas closer to the sea shore, they say, are not prone to flooding and the ongoing Rs 350 crore German bank-funded project only destroys the sandy aquifer and would ultimately pollute the sea, where the water would be discharged into.
"It's a sandy area. The water is beautifully absorbed. We don't want a project that takes this water and puts it into the sea. Any water is precious. We should ensure every bit of water is absorbed into the soil here. This is against rainwater harvesting," Gautam Ramdhas, a resident, told NDTV.
Showing the areas around free from water logging, Captain Mohan Ranganathan, another resident, said, "I've been living here for 23 years. I've never seen flooding in my area. Only during the unprecedented 2015 floods we had water logging for three days."
"They should have had public consultation. They did not do it. The German Bank should have stopped when concerns were raised about threat to marine life including turtles. They did not do that," said Sushma Erevelles, a resident.
Besides the network of drains slicing through the streets, the concrete drains come close to around 150 metres from the sea to discharge the rainwater into the sandy area at 27 outfalls along the coast. Environmentalists say these are in violations of Coastal Regulation Zone as the Chennai Corporation has not obtained CRZ clearance.
The beaches are also nesting ground for turtles. Environmentalists are worried. "Hatching rate of turtles would be affected. Only for two to three weeks when it rains. After that you would have sewage coming in. That's what happens when it's discharged into sea," said Nityanand Jayaraman, an environmentalist.
Residents have gone to the National Green Tribunal, which has ordered a probe by a committee. However, the Chennai Corporation is doubling up. It says this is part of a larger essential infrastructure to tackle flooding in the city.
"The drains will constitute just 1 per cent of the area. We would also have percolation pits and our objective is to capture most of the rain water," G Prakash, Commissioner, Greater Chennai Corporation, told NDTV.
With no storm water drains, several areas in Chennai including Semmencherry are still inundated even after cyclones triggered heavy rains.