Chennai: After nine days of misery (read as stagnant water), Sidco Nagar in Villivakkam is slowly limping back to normalcy as residents returned to their ‘water washed’ homes.
But the fact that it took workers nine days to drain water out from the locality would come as no surprise for Ripon Buildings hierarchy. Lower-rung officials recall how the administration was reminded of the scale of threat facing Sidco Nagar and other localities, in case of a deluge, as a few portions of the stormwater drains here were either too clogged or its shape, size and position were deemed inadequate to carry excess. “Nothing happened,” an official bluntly noted.
The level of neglect is summarised by the rain preparedness manual compiled by the local body. It listed Raja Mangalam, North and South Jeganathan Nagar and Bharathi Nagar in ward 94 as low-lying and prone to flooding.
Sidco Nagar was not on the list. Sidco Nagar’s development on a lake notwithstanding, a metro water-maintained lagoon adjoining nearby Sathya Nagar can explain some of the flooding. Locals said that this water body, previously used as a dump site for waste generated from the neighbourhood, was filled up in half using excavated soil dug out by the Chennai metro rail for its project.
“When it rained and because the water body had now been filled up, the flood water flowed into the streets of Sidco Nagar,” said a resident, requesting anonymity. Long time residents recall that Sidco Nagar was flooded during the mid-80s when a similar deluge rocked the city. “Back then, rainwater receded in two days,” recalled Ramamurthy, a resident. De-silting of the frugal stormwater drain network here has not happened since the locality was formed, locals said.
According to corporation officials, when the National Highways Authority of India commenced work on Padi flyover in 2005, portions of the drain network that would otherwise empty into the Otteri Nullah, were closed without diversions or new drains being put in its place.
“What this meant was excess from Ambattur, Ambattur Industrial Estate, Korattur and nearby localities drained out into Sidco Nagar neighbourhood,” said an official.
With nearby areas like Bharathi Nagar, Nehru Nagar and Balaramapuram among others all flooded, whatever amount was pumped out duly took a circuitous route and flowed back into the locality. “The officials then had to cut roads to make artificial channels for the water to flow into the Nullah. Except for second and third main roads, the remaining seven main roads were all relaid recently. Now, all of it have been damaged,” Ramamurthy added.
Developed on Villivakkam lake
Sidco Nagar was developed on Villivakkam lake in 1981-82.
CMDA master plan approved three phases providing different types of user zones for residents, commercial activities, schools, parks and play grounds, which the Tamil Nadu Housing Board developed.
Type A type plots were for weaker economic sections, B,C,D and E were for the various middle class sections while F was reserved for the rich.
3,500 plots approved for construction of houses, but today the number of houses have exceeded 13,000.
By 1988, the settlement had been occupied completely.
The first settlers formed a resident welfare association and decided to call the area Lake Nagar. In 1985, due to the presence of Sidco industries nearby, the locality was renamed after the Sidco Nagar bus stop.
Sidco Nagar has 99 streets and 10 main roads running through it. The locality's population is nearly 30,000.
Stormwater drain facility has been provided only for the main roads but its capacity was estimated for the 1980s.
Workers threatened with suspension, loss of pay
With rainfall battering Sidco Nagar, corporation officials had to run helter-skelter to muster a workforce that would help pump out the water.
While the rain-preparedness manual states that field labourers involved in clearing stagnation be paid incentive for contributing during times of emergency, local officials claimed that this has never been a practice in the Chennai corporation.
On November 20, permanent labourers of the corporation, of the sanitary worker grade, protested that they were not even being fed food or supplied snacks despite the long hours they were ‘forced’ to put in. When a few started not showing up for work, the work pressure was doubled on the ones present.
“My superior told me that he will cut my salary for the day if I did not put the excess work hours,” said a sanitary worker, requesting anonymity. This forced the management to muster strength from elsewhere, including asking private contractors to supply man power.
One such private contractor in ward 102 took his conservancy workers to Sidco Nagar after they completed their 6 am to 2 pm shift in the ward. They were then asked to help with the draining out work until 9 pm. Yet, the corporation did not pay them a single penny extra than the Rs 205 wages a day that they make for the conservancy shift.
“They don’t even give us food. Not even a little something with which I can get back to my home,” said a woman labourer. A mother of three, two of whom are deaf-and-dumb, this labourer told DC that she was yelled at by her mother-in-law as she returned home late from work.
Corporation officials, who supervise the work, told DC that they are not doing a disservice by not paying them incentives. “As far as I know, we have not been mandated to give the workers food or incentive by the higher-ups. If they give us funds, why would we not supply it to our workers?” asked this official.
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