Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXII No. 15, November 16-30, 2022

Our Readers Write

Dr. S. Rangachari

I was delighted to read the tribute to the memory of Dr. S. Rangachari. The first S in my name refers to Sarukkai, my ancestral village. Our house was next to Dr. Rangachari’s. Some five years back, I visited the village and was horrified to see its present condition. While our house had been razed to the ground, a big banyan tree has split the house of the famous doctor into two. The only redeeming feature was the veterinary hospital built with a donation from Mrs. Kamala, the wife of Dr. Rangachari.

Dr. S.S. Rajagopalan
30, Kamarajar Street
Chennai 600093

It may sadden the heart of many to know that Kensington, the famous hospital founded by Dr. S. Rangachari has been demolished to give room for high-rise buildings.

Dr. A. Raman
araman@csu.edu.au

Remembering OTR

Though I was a fan of OT, little did I realise what a great man he was till I read Shobha Menon’s article Remembering OTR that appeared in Madras Musings (Oct16-31, 2022).

I used to read his articles that appeared in The Hindu, with beautiful sketches, with great interest. I still have those paper clippings, most probably in my loft.

When my article on Rainwater Harvesting appeared in Madras Musings dated December 16-31, 1998, he called me over phone and appreciated my efforts to popularise it. He even invited me to his house for a chat. I was pleasantly surprised. I found him sitting in a small room surrounded by all those articles and materials that Shobha has described so well in her article.

During the discussion he mentioned that watering the leaves is as important as the plant bed and that is what rain does to all the plants and trees.

I was very fortunate to have known him and his passion for rainwater harvesting. I am one of the admirers who miss him.

Sekhar Raghavan
Rain Centre

Apparswamy Kovil Street, where Kalki resided

I refer to the article Kalki Krishnamurthy in Madras. It mentions that Kalki and his wife lived in Apparswamy Kovil Street, Mylapore. This street, almost a lane, may seem ordinary but a little digging will reveal a treasure trove of interesting anecdotes. The stories I’d like to share are ones I’ve read in various papers. All of it has to be verified, of course. It is possible that I read some of these tales in Madras Musings.

The residence of the Parur family, a line of carnatic musicians and violinists, is a hallowed place for renowned hindustani musicians and artistes across the country. Pandit Ravishankar never failed to visit the place whenever he visited Madras. Even Yehudi Menuhin is said to have visited this house. The terrace was once used to host small gatherings of renowned musicians for discussions and informal performances during their visits to Madras.

Vazuthur Rajagopala Sarma was a Sanskrit scholar. His residence was a place, it is said, where homas were performed for weeks and days on end without a break. It is said that once, the Paramacharya of Kanchi, during his stay in Mylapore, walked down this street to witness one such homa in progress. He is said to have proclaimed the event unique and grand.

I bring you these tales to share my surprise that a seemingly non descript street could have housed so many illustrious associations in its past.

Incidentally, it was in this very street too where the renowned Indological bookseller Jayalakshmi Book House operated their shop and office for many years before shifting during the pandemic. Any customer on the hunt for rare books was asked to contact this very shop on Apparswamy Kovil Street!

Ramamurthy Ravichandren
rrcv3@yahoo.co.in

More on Kalki

Referring to the interesting and topically relevant article by Mr. Sriram, please note Kalki publications came out from Kalki Gardens on Dr.Gurusamy Road and not on Naoroji Road as mentioned by the author.

Both roads are adjacent to each other. Now, a school of repute occupies that place since 1980 or so.

The palatial venue was not only the home of the said publication but also the residence of the revered couple namely Sri. Sadasivam and M.S. Subbulakshmi.

The same venue was the seat of many cultural activities such as month long discourses on Ramayanam and Mahabharatam. It also witnessed stormy political meetings presided over by Rajaji, founder of the now defunct Swantatara Party.

R.B. Vatsal
Chetpet, Chennai 600 031

Storm water drainage project in Chennai needs technical enquiry

It is tragic that a 24 year old journalist died on 23rd October of injuries that he sustained while walking on the road and falling into an under construction storm water drain at Ashok Nagar in Chennai, sustaining severe injuries from the protruding iron rods at the site.

This is not the first time that such accident has taken place due to the under construction storm water drain project in Chennai. Earlier, a bank executive lost her life as a tree fell on her vehicle, where storm water drain work was going on. So many other minor and not so minor accidents have taken place in the last few months in Chennai, most of which have not been reported in the media.

Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and is unsuitable for the existing conditions in Chennai city and quality of the implementation is so poor, that the residents have been put to great hardships.

As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains have been constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure.

Experts have expressed shock that the storm water drain has been constructed in such a way that it’s top level is around one foot above the road level.

If there would be rainfall, the rain water would get inside the house, as the top portion of the drainage structure is above the floor level in the house. As a result, it appears that the residents have to spend around Rs.1 lakh to raise the floor level in the compound to the top level of the drainage structure.

Experts point out that in constructing the storm water drain, gradient has to be maintained to enable free flow of water. It appears no measurement has been made properly to ensure the gradient level.

The area around the storm water drainage structure where soil has been removed earlier has been now filled with loose soil, posing safety hazard for people.

It is shocking to see that the workers, most of whom appear to be unskilled, are carrying out the work and removing the electric cables from the ground carelessly without being provided with the hand gloves, gumboots and safety goggles. Several citizens say that there have been no proper supervision of the work by the authorities and the entire work is left to the contractors who largely employ unskilled workers. In several places, electric cables have been left on the road, exposed to sun and rain.

Experts wonder whether the various technological options and alternate ways for laying the storm water drain have been carefully examined, considering the local conditions in Chennai such as rain fall intensity, periodicity of flooding, extent of flooding, the existing road construction and traffic intensity and density of population in the local area. On the other hand, the same design has been adopted for the entire city, not considering the local conditions. Careful evaluation of these factors are necessary that could have facilitated the least expensive way for building storm water drain, that can be finished in quick time without causing inconvenience and problems for the residents.

Experts say that in a crowded city like Chennai, drainage pipes could have been used for draining the storm water and the pipes can be laid under the ground,instead of the present pattern of ongoing work. There are PVC and HDPE pipe options, both of which have become extremely popular in drainage applications in recent years all over the world, thanks to their resistance to collapse and chemical corrosion, flexibility and durability. While PVC pipes are quite easy to install, HDPE is generally the better choice for high pressure systems. Suitable provisions can be made in the pipes for connection, inspection, cleaning etc. from time to time, as required.

In view of the poor execution of the project, several roads are now in an extremely bad shape and it is unsafe even for walkers in several places, apart from those who drive the two wheelers, three wheelers and four wheelers.

Further, storm water drainage project are being implemented in areas without adequate study for it’s need.

For example, in Besant Nagar and Kalakshetra area, which are near the seashore, the soil is lose and rain water can easily penetrate into the ground. Whatever stagnation has occurred in the road in the past in the area has been only due to uneven road.

Ministers and officials have been claiming that more than 85 per cent of the storm water drainage work has been completed. This does not appear to be so, if one would see the ground conditions in various places in the city.

The disappointment of the public with regard to the design and implementation are clearly evident and Greater Chennai Corporation owes an explanation to the people,as several hundred crores of rupees have been invested in this project and people have been put to huge sufferings.

The consensus view amongst the experts is that for the future students studying subjects related to civil engineering and public works, the design and execution of storm water drainage system presently executed by Greater Chennai Corporation is a case study as to how the future storm water drainage project should not be designed and implemented.

It is necessary that a high level technical committee should be immediately constituted to scrutinize the design of the project and methodology of implementation and the role of the engineers and officials at various levels from top- to bottom in conceiving and implementing this project.

The findings of the enquiry committee will help the Chennai Corporation and authorities by providing guidelines for such future projects.

N.S.Venkataraman
Trustee
Nandini Voice For The Deprived
M 60/1, 4th Cross Street
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090

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