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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 23, march 16-31, 2010
What are we planning for the Buckingham Canal?
(By a Special Correspondent)

While the Cooum river is now coming in for focussed attention thanks to it being next to the new Assembly complex (see page 2) and the Adyar may see better days thanks due to the Creek Park and the fact that it flows through South Chennai which, anyway, is always being looked at for development, the Buckingham Canal is nobody’s baby. It continues to remain a neglected waterway with several parts of it blocked off due to the MRTS. The authorities have in recent times made noises about making it a navigable waterway, but the latest moves by the Government indicate that there may be other and not very positive developments afoot as far as the canal is concerned.

The Buckingham Canal falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), which means that any development along canals, creeks and backwaters, subject to tidal effects, has to be regulated up to a distance which is to be determined based on the salinity of the water. The State Government’s Coastal Zone Management Authority argued that the salinity of the water in the Canal between Sholinganallur and Tiruvanmiyur is well within the salinity limit and so the land along the Canal in this stretch could be de-notified. This recommendation was based on the findings of the Institute for Remote Sensing, Anna University. It needs hardly to be pointed out that the stretch for which denotification was recommended is a real estate hotspot with several IT companies coming up in the surrounding area.

The National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA), however, has rejected this recommendation. Its commendable reason for doing so is worth noting. It has argued that the salinity in the waterway is low because the flow of seawater into the Canal has been obstructed and, hence, any argument regarding salinity cannot be taken as permanent. As and when the obstructions are cleared and seawater flows in, the Canal will see an increase in salinity. The NCZMA has also taken the opportunity to remind the State that a proposal to make the Buckingham Canal navigable once more is pending with the Ministry of Surface Transport. The latter scheme, incidentally, was announced with much fanfare some months ago by a Central Minister from Tamil Nadu.

Time has obviously not taught us any lesson. The MRTS was first thoughtlessly built on the dry bed of the Buckingham Canal and that began impeding the free flow of water. This resulted in parts of Mylapore getting regularly flooded during the rainy season. During the tsunami, the Canal played an important role as a buffer and it was only then that its importance was recognised once more and talks began about restoring it as a navigable waterway which it was till the 1960s. But now, with this latest attempt at getting the land along the Canal’s banks de-notified, it is evident that all talk about reviving the Canal is only a lip service.

Last heard, the State’s CZMA capitulated and admitted that its monitoring mechanism was weak, as the entire work was being done by one individual (and this for a canal that runs along the entire stretch of the city!). It has requested the Central Government for more funds to strengthen the monitoring mechanism. Can we at least then hope for more environmental concern?


In this issue

A landmark arising
What are we planning for the Buckingham Canal?
A waterway & an expressway in conflict
The Mylapore festival – that Sister Devamata witnessed 100 years ago
Historic Residences of Chennai - 38
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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