T Nagar residents dismiss Chennai’s progress as a Smart City even as four more cities from Tamil Nadu were added to the third Smart City list released by the centre on 20 September.
“I don’t know how T Nagar was selected as a test-site. Everything here is upside-down. They have to rebuild T Nagar,” said GV Jayaram, President, T Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association.
Under the area-based proposal for T Nagar, the corporation had promised solutions for critical civic issues such as water supply, sewage, storm water drainage, solid waste management, sanitation, pedestrian friendly pathways, and intelligent transportation system.
In T Nagar, water supply is regular but polluted. It contains excessive chlorine. Even though residents use water supplied for all the other purposes, they must use a good drinking water-filtering system or buy purified water in cans as a safeguard against water-borne illnesses, according to GV Jayaram.
The corporation was set to undertake projects to turn the congested shopping area at T Nagar into a pedestrian-friendly zone with footpaths and a dedicated cycle lane. “The roads are narrow and on roads like Usman road, there is no space for walking. The space is taken over by shops or hawkers. Shopping complexes are also violating the walking space by allowing car-parking,” said GV Jayaram.
Although plans to build multistoried parking complexes were announced several times, they are yet to materialise. “One of the major problems is the lack of parking space. Shoppers park on the either side of the road and on sidewalks – this creates problem for the residents,” said Basheer, a T Nagar resident.
Most of the shops on Usman road and Ranganathan Street receive consignment at midnight and leave them on the streets till morning. The commercial waste generated at night and during the day gets into storm water drains. Due to the absence of segregation of waste at the source, garbage, mostly plastic, dumped in the drains blocks the sewage pipes and chokes the flow. As a result, the drains overflow. Also, roads in the area were laid on top of the old layer and this raised level of the road results in the flooding of residences. Many of these residences have gone below the surface level. “If the storm water drains are not working properly, the water attacks houses on the lower level,” said GV Jayaram.
Increased motor-vehicular congestion in and around the locality and degradation of air quality over the last one and a half years, prompted the residents of T Nagar to file an RTI with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. The pollution control board is unwilling to measure the pollution levels here and divulge details as it knows that T Nagar is heavily polluted, according to GV Jayaram.
Smart city project has helped us rethink how we make decisions on urban infrastructure using information, according to Arvind Mahalingam, Building Technology and Construction Management Division, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Smart City is beyond basic planning. Smart City is not only about walkable spaces, urban mobility and transportation. These facilities form the basic layer of a smart city. A smart needs to have a good GPS system that can reroute traffic at congested hours. Smart City not only needs to deliver better quality of water but also needs to deliver it efficiently, for which a specifically designed information system becomes necessary. Information about the movement of citizens, flow of traffic, and progress of projects is necessary, he added.
Although there were plans to retrofit T Nagar with level sensors to track rising levels of water during monsoons, officials have admitted that it might not work as storm water drains in the area carry sewage.
“The qualities required to become a smart city is not available in T Nagar,” said GV Jayaram.
Several Smart City area-based projects set for implementation in T Nagar have been delayed by nearly 6 months as plans to create a special-purpose vehicle(SPV), required to procure funds from the centre, was stalled due to Chennai floods and elections.
“No one from the CMDA is authorised to speak on this matter,” said the public relations officer(PRO), Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority(CMDA).