Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. No. 15, December 1-15, 2020
On November 21, 2020, the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, inaugurated the fifth reservoir of the city, located at Thervoy Kandigai in Thiruvallur District. It will have a capacity of one thousand million cubic feet (1 tmcft) and is expected to go a long way in solving the water crises that the city faces in most years. It has taken us 381 years since the founding of the colonial city of Madras that is Chennai, for a fifth storage facility. What is even more significant is that this is the only such reservoir to be built since Independence! We are not certain if that is a record to be proud of.
The last time a reservoir was planned and executed for the city was in the 1940s. It was the brainchild of S. Satyamurti, who was Mayor of Madras in 1939/1940. The Poondi Reservoir scheme was approved in August 1940 and the foundation stone laid on the 8th of that month. The construction was completed four years later, by when Satyamurti was dead. The storage facility was rather appropriately named Satyamurti Sagar in his memory. With a capacity of 2,573 mcft, it is of course smaller than the new one at Thervoy Kandigai but contrast the time taken – the latest addition was mooted in 2012, with actual work gaining momentum only in 2018. The cost incurred has been Rs 380 crores. The population of the city at the time work began at Poondi was 8 lakhs or so. It is now ten times as much and yet it took us 76 years to build a new facility.
It is not as though nothing has been done in the interim. We have had the Telugu Ganga scheme, we have harnessed the Palar, requisitioned the Veeranam lake and also got the Chemparampakkam waterbody to cater to our insatiable thirst. Desalination plants have come up and bear a significant part of our water demand, no matter what the environmental impact and energy costs be. In the interim many photo opportunities have been created by the plastic pots. And we have on occasion had railway wagons bringing us water. A Hollywood star was moved to comment on our situation, when after having suffered floods and a cyclone in two consecutive years, we ended up being water starved the very next season. And all along we have extracted ground water with no let up.
As a continuation of last issue’s feature on how non-profit healthcare institutions are coping with the pandemic, Madras Musings reached out to distinguished oncologist Dr. V. Shanta, Chairman of the Cancer Institute (WIA), Adyar.
The Cancer Institute is perhaps one of the city’s most notable medical charities. Dedicated to the cause of providing excellent, affordable care for cancer patients, the institute is equipped with more than 500 beds and a research division as well. Normally, the hospital allocates more than 50 per cent of its beds to the needy, who receive free boarding and lodging. In addition, 40 per cent of the patients are treated free of cost while the rest pay a nominal amount. When the pandemic emerged in March, the unprecedented public crisis posed new challenges to the hospital and patients alike.
Our OLD, taken in 1940, shows the then Mayor of Madras, S. Satyamurti, (1) with Sir Arthur and Lady Hope, at Poondi and (2) walking with Sir Arthur Hope at the Jones Tower, Red Hills.
In 1965, a ten-year old boy, R. Radhakrishnan, attended Chitti Babu’s Veena concert at Sri Rama Samajam in T. Nagar. He was awed by the ‘Kuyil’ sound that emanated from the veena when Chitti Babu played a Bharathiyar Song. He trotted back home with fascination, and a new thirst for Carnatic music.