Chennai Buzz: No lockdown extension | Lake rejuvenation resumed | Infra projects to be delayed…and more

Updates on the COVID front in the city and news of other developments during the week that passed

COVID-19: Radhakrishnan takes charge as health secretary, no lockdown extension in Chennai, 40 patients booked for violating home quarantine

In a recent development, Dr J Radhakrishnan has been reappointed as the State Health Secretary, replacing Dr Beela Rajesh. The order passed on June 12th added that Dr Radhakrishnan will continue to serve as the Commissioner of Revenue Administration until further orders, and Dr Beela Rajesh will head the Department of Commercial Taxes and Registration department as Secretary.

The state witnessed a massive spike of 1,933 COVID cases on June 12th with 1,479 of the cases in Chennai, according to the bulletin. Among the front line workers, two senior doctors and 14 postgraduates at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital’s (RGGGH) Institute of Anaesthesiology have tested positive for the virus in Chennai. According to a source, at least 25 persons in the department are exposed to the virus every day. The doctors are posted on a eight-hour shift at the COVID wards, where symptomatic patients are received and tested.   

Infographic of total COVID-19 positive cases in Chennai as on June 13 9 am. Pic: GCC/Twitter

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami categorically denied the rumour about the lockdown in Chennai and neighbouring districts being extended for another 15 days. The Madras High Court had also questioned the state government if the lockdown could be prolonged as cases continue to spike. Additional advocate general S R Rajagopal, who appeared on behalf of the government, assured that the state has taken sufficient measures to contain the virus.

While the extension and intensification of lockdown in Chennai was ruled out, many people who believed that it would be intensified, attempted to cross over into neighbouring districts. The police department has now intensified vehicle scrutiny at the checkpoints at the borders. According to a senior officer, thousands of vehicles were crossing Chengalpattu through GST Road. As the cases rose manifold in the district, the police restricted the movement and began allowing only vehicles with e-passes while others were sent back.

Thirty patients undergoing Siddha treatment have been cured and discharged in the city. Health Secretary Radhakrishnan said that the exit tests of 6 persons turned out to be negative and the rest were found to be stable. 100 other patients in Chennai are undergoing Siddha treatment and other Indian medicine systems are also being experimented with at the public hospitals and COVID Care Centres (CCC).

The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) stated that COVID patients violating home isolation/quarantine norms repeatedly will be booked under provisions of IPC and the Disaster Management Act, 2005. COVID Response Teams (CRTs) at the division level, comprised of authorities from various departments, and 250 police personnel have been roped in to assist the teams for monitoring the situation on a daily basis. A press release said that FIRs have been filed against 40 households for violation of home quarantine.

The number of fever camps has been increased to 300 from 140 in GCC limits. According to an officer, the number of residents being tested has been increased from 3,500 to 5,000 from June 9.

MLA J Anbazhagan succumbed to coronavirus while he was under treatment in the city. He is the first legislator to have died of COVID-19 in the country.

Source: The Times of India | The New Indian Express | The Hindu

Lake rejuvenation without clearing encroachments in Pallavaram

Palkeni lake in Pallavaram has been taken up for renovation by the Pallavaram Municipality following the order of National Green Tribunal (NGT). However, the tribunal had ordered removal of encroachments before beginning the clean-up, but the present effort has moved forward without that. Strengthening the bund, construction of pillars and chain-link fences around the lake are underway.

The case was being heard by a bench comprised of Justices K Ramakrishnan and Saibal Dasgupta. Activists and NGOs allege that the municipality has not made any efforts to clean the waterbody and say that it is only the NGOs that are cleaning the waterbody.

Confederation of Organisations for Integrated Urban Development (COIUD), an NGO that filed a case with NGT in 2015, stated that Rs 92 lakh sanctioned for the project is not used yet. The municipality officials stated that they are discussing with the revenue department to permanently evict the encroachments and added that 67 households discharging sewage into the lake illegally have been disconnected.

In yet another development, Puzhuthivakkam lake restoration resumed amid the ongoing pandemic. The GCC has begun installing bollards and hand railing on the footpath around the lake. An official added that rejuvenation activity will also be resumed in Madipakkam lake, Naicker Kuttai in Madipakkam, Vembuli Amman Temple tank near Puzhuthivakkam, Naachangulam near Pallikaranai and Vannankuttai near Jalladanpet.

As part of the Smart City project, Rs 2.4 crore has been sanctioned for the rejuvenation process. The civic body proposed to lay a walking track, fence, benches and create islands in the water body.

Source: The Times of India

Infra projects to be delayed

As guest workers leave Chennai, it has resulted in a labour crunch and the completion of several projects is expected to be delayed. The work to construct five flyovers and grade separators in and around Chennai has taken a beating. 

Three projects at Vandalur Junction on GST Road, one leg of Eechangadu Junction passing  through Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Road and Koyambedu that were supposed to have been wrapped up by June have now been extended by three to six months. The two-level grade separators at Vijayanagar Junction and Medavakkam flyover are expected to be completed by December 2020. 

Shortage of labour is among the primary causes behind the delay in execution of projects. The Builders Association of India is in talks with contractors to see if migrant workers can be brought back to the city. The contractors are also ready to offer a hike in their wages. However, the workers seek two-three months of time to get back to work.

Source: The Times of India

Commercial activity down, groundwater level up

A year-on-year comparison showed that groundwater levels have increased by a metre in Chennai. Officials from Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) attribute this to decreased commercial and industrial activities and installation of rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. 

According to the department, soil conditions in different neighbourhoods and rainfall during the previous northeast monsoon season played a major role in improving the water table. Officials also add that there was reduced dependence on groundwater sources this year.

The level at Ambattur zone remains the farthest, at 7.72 m, while of all zones in Chennai, the water table at Sholinganallur stands highest, at a depth of 4 m, signifying that it has risen by 2.09 m. 

In view of the above, water conservation expert R Shankar calls for fixing a cap on the amount of water being supplied for commercial use and long pending work, to avoid a water crisis next year.

Source: The Hindu | The New Indian Express

Compiled by Bhavani Prabhakar

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