Councillor talk: Flood mitigation and green cover improvement are goals for R Durairaj of Ward 172

Councillor R Durairaj is keen to work with MLAs and Ministers from the DMK to execute his vision for Ward 172.

Councillor R Durairaj, Councillor of Ward 172 has been a long-serving member of the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). He has previously contested from Adambakkam in the local body elections in 2011. At present, he also serves as the Zone Chairman of Zone 13.

He looks to address key issues affecting ward 172 such as traffic congestion, encroachment, flooding and poor civic amenities such as street lights.

In an interview with Citizen Matters, he lays out his vision and outlines how he plans to achieve his goals during his term.

Ward No. 172 

  • Name of Councillor: R. Durairaj 
  • Party: DMK 
  • Age: 50 
  • Educational qualification: SSLC 
  • Contact: 9444129521
GCC ward 172 map
Map of Ward 172. Source: OpenCity

Primary goals for Ward 172

What are your immediate tasks/targets for ward 172? 

There are some things that I want to work on within the time frame of a few weeks and months. One such thing is the removal of debris from the roads. It is a huge nuisance to the people that live here. We also want to replace the old and damaged streetlights with new ones.

The pillar boxes and electricity cables are also very old; there has been serious mismanagement of such infrastructure in the past ten years. Getting all this repaired and replaced is a priority. These are issues we have already started working on. 

In addition to this, flooding is a huge problem here. The CM himself has visited the area and has urged us to act on this with urgency. The MLA of this constituency, along with a few ministers has also been working to address this.

We are trying to make diversions to existing channels and also build a new canal to tackle this issue. Alandur is one of the areas that experiences the worst flooding. We plan to construct a canal of 1.6 km length, connecting Alandur and the city link road, in order to solve this.

Netaji Road is another vulnerable spot, owing to its location at the tail end of the river. We want to divert water from Netaji Road to the Raj Bhavan canal directly, as its drainage capacity is more. Apart from this, water release from the Race Course has proved to be a big challenge in the past. We have now made it mandatory for them to connect their stormwater drains along with the municipal network. A mini pumping station to drain rainwater has also been planned in Masoodhi colony with a budget of 3.60 lakhs allocated for it; the tender allocation process has already begun.

We are working swiftly on all of this. A total of 24.66 crore rupees have been allotted exclusively for working on stormwater drains in this area. With the allocation of finances and intent, I am sure that this menace of flooding would be tackled, and residents living in the low-lying areas would find relief.

While this year’s monsoons are right around the corner and don’t give us much time to act, I am positive that our plans would be implemented before the coming of next year’s rains.

ward 172 councillor inspection
Councillor Durairaj inspects a stormwater drain project in Guindy. Pic: R Durairaj/Facebook

Read more: Chennai in darkness: What is wrong with our street lights?

How do you interact with the constituents? What kind of outreach activities have you held so far/plan to do? How can people in the ward contact you? 

I interact with the constituents on a regular basis. In addition to being this ward’s councillor, I am also this Zone’s Chairman at present. This gives me the opportunity to move between wards and meet multiple people.

I have the habit of walking every morning, so that gives me a chance to directly visit people and have a look at the area to learn about the issues by myself. The party also has area-wise operational units, which brings issues to notice through a WhatsApp group.

Besides this, I am a resident of the ward, having been born and raised here. People know me and can meet me in person whenever they want to. 

One of the biggest issues in this ward is that of traffic congestion, be it at Madhya Kailash or the Five Furlong Road. Do you have any plans to tackle this? 

I would say that restaurants and malls are the biggest culprits. We have commercial outlets functioning without having the necessary parking facilities. As a result, vehicles are parked everywhere on the roads. The public can’t be blamed for this.

Although there are legal requirements that mandate the provision of specific parking facilities, these are seldom fulfilled. While permits are received on the promise of providing valet parking, they are usually not within the prescribed radius. Overall, we work with the Police and try urging better management, and even fine these hotels and malls. But beyond a point, we can’t subject them to serious legal recourses owing to the livelihoods of workers associated. So this is a complex issue. 

This is an issue that involves multiple actors, requiring discussion and deliberation. As with all matters in public life, nothing can be done in haste. It is a slow process and requires larger policy decisions to be taken. 

Waste management in Ward 172

Waste management has also been a problem here in this ward. Do you have any specific plans to tackle this? 

Yes. Debris on the streets has also been an issue here. Waste management has not been given its due attention in the past, but we are trying to rectify that now. Waste management for this zone is being done privately by Urbaser Sumeet. I have personally visited different spots and checked their work, and they seem to be doing a good job. They work promptly and the workers are found to be regular. They are ensuring that the streets are kept clean. This would be true of most of the roads in the ward. However, they don’t deal with bulk waste that is generated by huge building complexes. That is something that requires other arrangements. 

The waste generated here is taken to the Perungudi dump yard. Some of it is segregated and taken for composting, which happens in the nearby burial grounds. So I would say that waste management is happening quite well in this zone, with the exception of a few spots for which we would have to devise different plans. 

Do you propose that waste management be privatised in all zones of Chennai? 

No, that is not what I would suggest. It would work best when any service is provided by the government. It would be a source of livelihood for the masses. It would also provide job security. So in those aspects, I would definitely favour public services. But the problem is administration.

The government lacks the systems that the private sector has in order to deliver quality services. So in that sense, it becomes inevitable to take the aid of private firms. If the same organisational capabilities, discipline and quality of service are made possible by the government, I would always favour it for the provision of services. But until these are achieved, the public cannot suffer.

Vision for Chennai and goals for his term

What is your vision for Chennai as a city? 

I believe that traffic is a central issue that is growing in Chennai. In order to tackle this, I feel that we need to encourage small enterprises and restaurants over big ones. While I do not completely discourage the latter, it should be made mandatory that they have parking facilities that equal their seating capacities.

Encouraging smaller restaurants and shops would counter our dependence on the larger ones, generate livelihoods and lead to the growth of the service sector. Big restaurants cause traffic congestion and encroach on public spaces. It is for these reasons that I wish to promote small-scale businesses in general. 

I also wish that a recreational centre is created in some place like ECR, so that all activities related to entertainment are done there, countering the overall congestion and space constraint within the city. 

Read more: Chennai’s empty plots and OSR land can help fight flooding and drought

What do you hope to achieve in your term as a councillor? 

My long-term vision would be to tackle the issue of flooding. Approximately Rs 150 crore has been allocated specifically to just this zone for working on stormwater drains. I am focussed on utilising these funds to implement our plans and resolve this issue permanently. Installing new pumping stations to prevent drain water from flowing into rivers would also be something that I would attempt to do. Work for this has already begun to some extent, but more funds are required for it; I am positive to avail them. 

In addition to this, laying new roads and replacing overhead cable lines all through ward 172 are also my priorities. Some new technologies for making transformers safer are also being implemented in some parts of Chennai. I wish to implement the same in this ward as well. 

Once the issues related to these basic facilities are rectified, the focus can then be shifted to beautification. A scheme was piloted last term by the MLA of Saidapet Ma Subramanian, where people were urged to plant a sapling on their birthdays. This was part of his larger drive to plant one lakh saplings within five years. We wish to implement a similar drive and transform Chennai into a green city, creating more green cover in the coming years. 

What the residents say:

Balakrishnan, of the Mahalaxmi Apartments Residents’ Welfare Association, says, “The immediate focus in the ward should be to increase drinking water supply, relay roads, beautify of parks, desilt drains and change overhead cables to underground.”

He adds, “We have known of Mr Durairaj and are familiar with his work in the ward for a decade. The same is the case with MLA Ma. Subramanian. We find them extremely helpful and responsive. They look into issues and act very promptly.”

Another resident, Ramesh S said that flooding is the biggest issue that requires immediate attention. “It looks like they are acting on it now. Hopefully, there are permanent solutions found.”

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