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Vol. XXV No. 17, December 16-31, 2015

Archives: Vol. XXV No. 17, December 16-31, 2015


Time to divide the Corporation

(By The Editor)

Do various outlying villages suddenly become part of a city just by giving them a new postal code and bringing them under the jurisdiction of the metropolis’ civic body? We as a publication had pointed out that such moves result in no positive benefit for either the area being acquired or the civic body itself. The recent floods have more than borne out our stance.

It was in 2011 that the Corporation of Chennai suddenly found itself with a large territory to handle. What had till then been a city of 174 sq km burgeoned to 426 sq km. The civic body, which till then had 10 zones and 155 wards expanded to 15 zones and 200 wards. Our editorial written then is worth quoting from:

“The view of the man on the road however differs from all this. Most people hold the opinion that infrastructure within the earlier limits of Chennai was nothing to write home about and that water, power, roads and open spaces have been subject to severe strain all along. And given the rampant construction activity that is going on all the time, very often without permission, there is very little to crow about regarding quality of life in Chennai. They fear that the expanded area will mean that what little attention was being given to the older wards will now be spread thin over a much larger territory, causing greater infrastructural stress.”

We had then recommended that it would be best if areas south of Tambaram were banded under a municipality of their own and a similar facility be extended to regions north of Royapuram. That way, each area would have had a civic body focusing on its specific needs and sustainable development could have been achieved. Unfortunately all this was not considered and there was much hype and misplaced celebration when the city limits were expanded.

The recent deluge has more than proven that this expansion was delusional at best. The Corporation just did not have the manpower or resources to devote to all the areas. There was uneven development – some places received inordinate attention while others remained neglected. Road laying and drainage works, the latter coming under the scope of Metrowater, were slow and, certainly, none was prepared for the volume of the rains when they chose to descend on the city. The city’s continued lackadaisical approach to waste management, also pointed out in our editorial of 2011, added to our woes – in many places it was plastic that blocked up the sewers and prevented water from flowing.


Should the floods wash away the Music Season?

By A Special Correspondent

It is very unlikely that in other circumstances the Madras Music Season would have occupied centre stage like the way it did recently. It is after all an event that involves a miniscule percentage of our city’s population, though it does have an inordinately huge public profile. The floods and the suffering they caused gave rise to a huge controversy (huge by Carnatic Music/Bharata Natyam standards that is), which even had the national media having a story on what it termed as the Margali Music Season.

At the heart of it all was a debate on whether the Season really needs to be held at a time when so many people had suffered so much. A couple of top-ranking artistes, at least one of whom had his home affected by the flood, cancelled their concerts. What followed was a call from mainly the dance community, for cancelling the entire December season. This was rather cleverly done, for dance programmes begin in January and not December, by when no doubt, the artistes reasoned, the flood would be forgotten.


Know your Fort better

by Sriram V.

If you turn right as you come out of St. Mary’s Church, you will come across a small cordoned parking lot which houses the cars belonging to the Chief Minister’s cavalcade. Next is a platform of polished granite, a material that is incongruous with the rest of the fort but is sadly what is in vogue with all parties in power. You are now almost at the front of the Fort and there you need to turn right into a street that is still very impressive – filled with colonnaded buildings. A signboard informs you that you are in St.  Thomas Street, also known as Snob’s Alley.
This is one of the oldest thoroughfares of the Fort. It gets its name in all probability from the fact that it stretches south, towards San Thome. In 1688, the East India Company ordered the preparation of a Rent Rowle of Dwelling Houses, Godowns & c, within the Garrison or Christian Town and as per this document, St. Thomas Street was among the best areas of the Fort, probably because it fronted the sea and therefore provided a good breeze.


A great display of community spirit

by The Editor

When was the last time anyone credited Madras that is Chennai with community spirit? Most writings on the city have dismissed it as comprising an insular community where neighbours hardly ever bother to find out who lives next door. That notion it appears is now in for a complete revision. Last fortnight’s floods have brought forth a new Chennai as it were, where the citizenry has risen to the occasion in providing relief and rehabilitation for those affected.


Save the wetlands, save the city

This article first appeared in the CAG Souvenir 2005 and was reproduced in Madras Musings, November 16, 2005. Nothing has changed since then – we still suffer by not acting.

Wetlands play a very important role as natural ecosystems. Tragically, especially when they are located close to cities and growing urban agglomerations such as Chennai, where the demand for land in terms of housing and other needs increases, they are seen as areas with potential for land development.