Knock knock, no response: The tale behind Chennai’s civic mess

Across the city roads are being dug up and relaid to lay pipes and cables. The relaying occurs mostly without milling. Despite complaints, authorities delay action.

As an active citizen who has been filing complaints on the state of various civic infrastructure in the city, I find the prolonged inaction on some of the problems raised deeply concerning. I would like to detail three such instances where the apathy of the authorities and the public has come to the fore.

Patchwork roads

Thiruvengadam Lane in Ward 70 was resurfaced with concrete for the second time in the year 2016. I had filed a petition with the Greater Chennai City Corporation in January 2018 seeking their help in repairing the damage caused to the surface of the streets. The damage was due to the road cutting taken up by both the Electricity Board and Metro Water to replace existing pipes and cables.

Subsequently a couple of reminders were also sent to them in July 2018 and August 2019. The executive engineer responded in August 2019, well over a year after the complaint, with feedback that the road patch work would be taken up at the earliest. But no action was taken since the reply and the road continued to be a hazard.

Thiruvengadam Lane was dug up for laying pipes and cables. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Given the sheer lack of will on the part of the officials within the local administration, we as citizens have to take the responsibility of following up relentlessly on a regular basis. I filed a new petition a few weeks ago seeking an update on when the issue would be finally addressed.

The complaint was closed by the local body with feedback that roads would be “relaid in the next academic year. ” I find this completely absurd given the fact that we had asked them to only patch the damaged portion of the road. Not to be deterred, I filed a review petition a few days ago and the local AE confirmed that the patch work would be taken up as requested but we still await the fixing of the road.

The roads have been broken by various bodies who do not fix the damage. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Another act that has left me shocked is the indiscriminate digging up of roads. Thiruvengadam Road and Thiruvengadam Lane have been dug up in the past month by Metro Water. It is the second time within the last two years that these roads have been dug up and they are now in the process of replacing the existing metro water pipes.

The initial pipe replacement was unsuccessful, leaving the residents without water. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

The PVC pipes in Thiruvengadam Lane were replaced with cast iron pipe only in 2017. I was left wondering why the pipes are once again being replaced in under three years. Residents in Thiruvengadam Lane pointed out that the current issue is because the work that had been completed earlier was unsuccessful.

As a result metro water supply to the houses in this street had stopped completely. In order to resolve this, the existing PVC pipes in Thiruvengadam Road were also being replaced with a cast iron pipe and connected to the main supply line in Perambur High Road.

The shoddy job in the first instance has led to the suffering of residents and increased costs as the roads have had to be dug up twice in the span of three years.

The entire stretch of Thiruvengadam Road and Thiruvengadam Lane have been damaged and the civic body will now have to resurface these streets with concrete within 2 to 3 years. This will also lead to the height of the roads increasing further.

Increased road height and potholes

The height of the roads have increased by several feet in the last few decades due to repeated digging and relaying, which means that the houses are now at the same level of the road, or even lower in some cases. This causes rainwater to easily get inside homes and flood them during monsoon.

Despite clear High Court orders and petitions from citizen groups most of the roads within the residential colonies of the city are not being milled before they are resurfaced. A widespread nexus between the politicians, officials and contractor cartels is to be blamed for this situation. 

A part of Vasan Street in the same neighbourhood was also resurfaced with concrete for the second time in 2016-17. The road was not laid properly, leading to puddles of stagnated water during the monsoon. The road has now become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Lack of proper coordination between the various government agencies is the main cause for such issues. Despite bringing this issue to the notice of the higher officials, no change has been seen. The will of the officials triumphs over the needs of the citizens.

Dangers of bad roads

Another issue taken up in recent weeks was the dangerous nature of Perambur High Road opposite the Perambur Railway Station in Ward 70. The road was patched with concrete only a few months ago. During the rains a portion of the concrete patchwork was washed away making the surface uneven and now it is riddled with potholes

The uneven patchwork is not visible at night and has led to accidents. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Over the last few days we have noticed two accidents where speeding two wheeler riders were thrown off their vehicles. The uneven surface is not visible during the night time making it extremely dangerous.

Other stretches of uneven surfaces can also be seen right in front of the entry gate to the Perambur Railway Station and near the concrete median where the Bus Bay ends.

Complaints have been lodged with the concerned agencies and citizens are still awaiting corrective action. 

A wall defaced

The granite wall in front of the ESI Hospitals in Ayanavaram has been completely covered by posters and other paraphernalia. Those tasked with its maintenance have been unable to prevent or clear this abuse and encroachment. 

The wall has been completely covered by posters. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

The wall has been in this state for months even though it is located close to the Zonal Office of the Greater Chennai Corporation.

The apathy of some citizens and officials is what leads to the slow collapse of civic amenities. Without pressure from the public and constant follow-ups, officials too turned a blind eye. Ultimately it is the common man who suffers the consequence of such inaction and delays.


  1. Manikandan says:

    They excavated the paved road to replace Sewer pipelines on March 21st.. closed it quickly due to lockdown & never bothered till now.. the road to half of its length is like a quarry, gets muddy on rainy says, elders slip & fall, vehicles are parked outside the street. Corporation says, “144 is in effect.” Greater Chennai corporation is just a name they call themselves.

    • Venkat R says:

      Extremely sad state that Chennai civic is in shambles corruption is at its height even a person who have to pick garbage from houses OMR ask residents of apartments up

  2. Dr Murali says:

    These are all part of corruption in the civic bodies in the name of replacing or relaying of roads etc. Tender is taken by mafia controlled by Politicians and local councillors. The quoted money is way more than what is actually spent. These are all waste of tax payers money. If these goons spend from their own pocket they will understand the value of taxpayers money. God save India.

  3. KP Narasimhan says:

    I would like to add one more point to the above complaint. That’s exnora box overflows in some parts of West Mambalam. They are not kept properly and its placement poses lot of traffic problems.

  4. Srinivasan. b says:

    I appreciate the struggle of an individual in getting the road Thiruvengadam street to get proper attention.It is the story of many of the roads in the interior Chennai which are still in pitiable condition and badly needed attention before the onset of the monsoon.

  5. N Krishnamurthy says:

    I second the author on 2 accounts. (1) Thoughtless digging of roads by departments all of which under the same corporation with clear Nexus with contractors
    (2) Defacing walls though we shamelessly call “singara chennai”. I stay near Cathedral road with close proximity to Amma and Kalaignar. It is always has been shabby sight, someone or other being wished for a birthday or achievement. There are permanent wall painting of Thirumavalavan. My query to corporation what fee the collect for this still not answered.
    As a law abiding, tax paying citizen we deserve a decent environment. A forum like this grow in size that matters

  6. Hope says:

    I appreciate the efforts taken by an individual. I hope the concerned authorities act in a responsible manner. For example, whoever is digging the road must replace it as it was. The government authorities should discuss and plan accordingly so that no damages is done to the pipe lines or roads or any other. I hope the government concentrate on the underground sewage system.

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