Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. No. 16, December 16-31, 2020
We are not out of the woods as yet as far as Covid 19 is concerned. But it cannot be denied that numbers are falling at present. The State is reporting around 1,200 cases a day, of which about a third is from Chennai. Once again, the statistics are encouraging in the city as well. It is in the light of this that the continued locking up of the beach and the parks remained a puzzle, especially when closed-door venues for entertainment and relaxation had already been opened up. It finally required the High Court to intervene – a matter as simple as allowing us access to our open spaces needed legal recourse!
The Marina and other beaches, as well as parks in the city became out of bounds to people in March, when the lockdown was announced. At that time this announcement made sense, it being in line with the closing down of other places of public congregation including cinema halls, places of worship, gymnasiums and clubs. Even then, there was a section of influencers such as doctors that did state that keeping parks and beaches open was not harmful and could actually provide people under an enforced and prolonged lockdown outlet for recreation. After all they argued, these were open air spaces and so had lesser risk of spread of the virus.
Since then, the actions of the Government were nothing short of puzzling. Over the various phases of the unlock process, places of worship, gymnasiums, clubs, hotels and restaurants, and cinema theatres opened up. Even wedding halls were back in business and even though they were officially not supposed to cater to more than 200 people at a time, reality pointed at much larger figures, an aspect that the authorities chose to turn the proverbial blind eye to. It must be pointed out here that all of these sectors had associations and pressure groups that successfully lobbied with the administration.
Parks and beaches were another matter altogether. Despite all the openings up listed above, these lungs of the city remained firmly shut. At the Marina, the police began permitting people to walk on the promenade but the sunken road behind and the sands were off limits.
Concrete drain under construction with stagnant rainwater.
Residents of ECR are protesting the building of storm water drains in their neighbourhoods, fearing that the move will do more harm than good. The storm water drains under contention come under the scope of the Rs. 4,034 crore Integrated Storm Water Drain (ISWD) project which aims at building adequate drainage facilities in extended areas comprising the city’s four river basins – Adyar and Cooum, Kovalam and Kosasthalaiyar. The Kovalam portion of the ISWD project is being funded by the German development bank KfW at a cost of Rs. 300 crores and it is this module that has run into trouble with some of ECR’s residents.
Madras is known for its unpredictable and extreme monsoons, courtesy cyclones. The city may flood in the manic rains, wreaking havoc on its very foundations. Moreover, being a low-lying area on the coast of Bay of Bengal, the sea may rise to inundate Madras, mercilessly. The scar of the 2015-floods still runs deep in the memories of many locals. There is forever a need to contain the waters.
Ramakrishnan (second from left) at Mozhi.