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Vol. XXV No. 12, October 1-15, 2015

Archives: Vol. XXV No. 12, October 1-15, 2015


Another plan for the Cooum

by The Editor

Yet another Cooum clean-up has been announced, this one at a cost of Rs.2,000 crore. The figures keep getting bigger each time, but the river remains wh­at it was – a sewer into which all the refuse of the City is dum­p­ed. It is an eyesore and a black ma­rk for a metro that has pretensions to becoming world-class. How are we to believe that this latest round of expenditure will help improve matters?

The new plan has all the usual features – plugging of untreated sewerage being dumped into the river, clearing the banks of encroachments, setting up gardens and recreation spaces, and making the waterway a lifeline to the city. The broad plan is broken up into several smaller ones, the bulk being 60 sub-schemes to be implemented over a period of three years at a cost of Rs.600 crore. With this, the Cooum River Restoration Project, pigeonholed since 2011 largely because it was the brainchild of an earlier regime, has been officially revived. The Corporation of Chennai is expected to play an important role, especially in the removal of solid waste that has accumulated on the banks. Over 15,000 families are to be relocated. The river, it is believed, will, at the end of this, be a living entity and a popular destination both for residents as well as visitors.

How much of the public is to be given access to the clean stream that will eventually emerge is a matter of doubt, for also on the anvil is the construction of a fence all along the banks, at the cost of Rs.50 crore. If that does happen, it would be a pity, for that would mean the river being cut off from the citizens. It will eventually degrade the way it has over the years.

There are also concerns that the plans are all elitist – those who attended the consultation trashed the study as it focused principally on beautification, which included building of cycle tracks and parks along with upmarket housing on space that is now occupied by shanties. Some were of the view that the study did not take into account the views of the slum dwellers. It also skirted around the issue of wastes being let into the river by Government agencies. Among those who were present were representatives from the slums who feared that in the name of resettlement they would be displaced to far away colonies, completely removed from the places where they earn their livelihood.

It remains to be seen how effective the latest plan will be. As regular readers of Madras Musings are aware, there have been several such schemes, all of which have come to naught largely because of vested interests (several Government agencies, healthcare facilities and private institutions have encroached on the river banks and merrily dump their waste into it) and lack of coordination among the various Government bodies that are involved (last heard, there are nine of them).


Government revives TDR idea to save heritage

By A Special ­Correspondent

Earlier this month, a news report in a leading local daily had it that the Corporation of Chennai is planning to introduce the Transfer of ­Development Rights (TDR) ­facility for owners of heritage buildings within the City. While this will no doubt come as a shot in the arm for the preservation of heritage, much will depend on the implementation of the scheme, for this is not the first time such an idea has been mooted. The bureaucracy has buried all previous attempts, ­especially when they concern heritage buildings.
The idea was first mentioned over 20 years ago when the first draft of a Heritage Act was drafted by the Town & Country Planning Department and INTACH Tamil Nadu. It was then mooted in the second ­Master Plan for Chennai made public by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA). However, that document restricted itself to a broad policy pronouncement and did not go into details. Subsequently, the concept of TDRs was used in connection with land acquisition by Chennai Metrorail ­Limited (CMRL) in the Saida­pet area. That had to do with empty plots of land that were in the way of the metro route. These were taken over at market valuations and TDRs were allotted to the erstwhile owners.


Know your Fort better


St. Mary’s in the Fort as seen in the early 1900s.

Walking back to Parade Square from Charles Street, we need to turn right to reach St Mary’s Church. Renowned as the oldest Anglican church built east of the Suez, it has a less publicised ­distinction. It is the only structure in the Fort to have a book ­written on it – The Church in the Fort, A History of St Mary’s was released in 1905. Based on the facts put together by the Rev. C.H. Malden, the then Garrison Chaplain, it was expanded upon by W.H. Warren and N. Barlow. New editions were published in 1967 and 1987, the latter, put together by Durai Singh and Helen Lakshmanan, being released to coincide with the tercentenary of the Church. A new print was issued in 2002, which, sadly, has many typographical ­errors. St Mary’s is among the best maintained buildings in the ‘Fort’. Indeed, it is more a precinct than a building, for its exterior, interior and yard, all warrant a detailed history.


Savithri Devanesen ­remembered in the UK

“A legend in her own life time,” “a second Mother Theresa,” “angel of mercy,” “a mother to us all.”
These were some of the ­tributes paid to Mrs Norma Savithri Devanesen, Director of Chennai’s ‘Roofs for the Roof­less’ charity, at a memorial ­service held in Rochester ­Cathedral, UK.

Savithri Devanesen passed away in Chennai in May this year at the age of 99.
In 1980, Dr Chandran Devanesen, appointed the first Indian Principal of Madras Christian College in 1962, started the ‘Roofs for the Roofless’ for those who could not afford any sort of housing.


Singing for the trees

Nizhal, a Chennai-based NGO, which works towards nurturing and promoting sensitive urban greening, recently blazed a trail by linking the worlds of trees, literature and Carnatic music during its Madras Week celebrations.
The first of these Musical Tree Walks was conducted in the sylvan campus of Kalak­shetra at Tiruvanmiyur, Chen­nai. Led by Nizhal team ­members who spoke about some important trees in the campus, each of these expositions was musically embellished by Dr. S. Sowmya and her team, who described the songs in which the trees find mention.