Residents work with civic body to tackle flooding in Ashok Nagar through SWDs

Residents worked with the civic body in identifying issues, offered inputs on SWD design to create flood free roads in Ashok Nagar.

Key roads in Ashok Nagar have been subject to floods in recent years whenever there have been severe cyclonic storms in the city. An outdated stormwater drain (SWD) network was one of the key reasons for the flooding and the misery that the residents faced.

Having seen the impact of the urban floods, the residents of the area organised themselves into a Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA) that has successfully managed to work with the civic body in creating infrastructure that will prevent future floods. 

Read more: Perambur SWD construction: Sewage, exposed cables and other horrors

Key roads in Ashok Nagar

The 18th and 19th Avenue roads in Ashok Nagar and its branch roads are on the west side of the city’s arterial 100 feet road that connects Ashok Pillar and Vadapalani. 

The formation of 18th Avenue was taken up in the 1970s with the Housing Board selling the concept of flats. The Board constructed flats and developed a colony fit for the habitation. The road laid then was not a pucca asphalt road but was made reasonably motorable. The first SWD in 18th and 19th Avenues was constructed in 1985. 

This was for a portion of the road to a dimension that did not possess a technical and logical backup. Needless to mention, the quantity of water flow during a normal monsoon and during cyclones was not factored in and hence was inadequate from the beginning. 

The arterial 100 feet road was developed commensurate to the traffic density of the 1990s with marginal projections about the future. When completed, its top level was much higher than the level of the road on 18th and 19th Avenue. 

While developing the 100 feet road and relaying it after metro work, only the road was laid and the SWD work was left unattended. 

Inadequate SWD infra and flooding in Ashok Nagar

It all started during the cyclone 2015. 18th and 19th Avenues were severely battered with water logging up to hip level. Many houses on the ground floor saw water gushing inside their houses in the dead of the night leaving the people with water all around and nowhere to go. Several residents lost their property as rainwater and sewage water got mixed and remained stagnant for days. 

2016 cyclone Vardah was equally devastating. The existing SWD which was already 30 years old and inadequate in capacity again overflowed rendering the usual inconvenience to residents and the public. 

Repeated efforts by residents to get the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) to address the problem could not fructify. 

During the 2021 floods, there was a huge downpour for days and nights continuously which exposed the weakness of the system glaringly. 

The damage and inconvenience being no less, we the residents, hurriedly formed a Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA) to address the civic needs of the area by raising our voices collectively and through proper channels. 

With the lifespan of the SWDs in Ashok Nagar having been exhausted, the stagnated water had to be pumped out through external equipment. 

Read more: Residents step up to monitor Mandaveli SWD work

Action to fix SWD network in Ashok Nagar

On behalf of the Association, we carried out the following actions to fix SWDs in the area

  1. Submitted representation at all levels of GCC starting from AE up to Commissioner. 
  2. Residents extended unconditional cooperation with civic body officials in solving the issue
  3. Through persuasion made all officials of GCC ( from Divisional Engineer to GCC Commissioner and MLA ) visit our area to understand the gravity of the problem better and give priority to corrective action. 
  4. Followed up with officials, got high-capacity pumps transported from adjacent districts, and helped the field engineers of GCC in their effort to pump out water. 
  5. Through repeated discussions with all officials concerned, identified the root causes of the problem. 

During the period of inundation, a total of more than a hundred complaints were logged in the portal of GCC and CM cell by all the residents. Lots of photographs were taken that portrayed the sorry state of affairs of the area and submitted to government officials. 

Once normal life resumed, the office bearers of the Association got together and drafted a letter mentioning the difficulties faced during the time of the disaster, thanking them for their support and seeking their action towards a permanent solution. 

The team of office bearers met the then Commissioner G S Bedi in his office and handed over the request. The team personally submitted copies of this letter to all concerned officials for their information and needful action. It was also mentioned in the letter that we the residents would like to review the proposed new design of SWD construction for our satisfaction and suggestions if any. 

ashok nagar rwa meeting about swd work
Meeting by office bearers with then GCC Commissioner G S Bedi. Pic: S Raghavan

There was a change of government between the time of the preparation of the design to the award of the order for the construction of SWD. Residents had an apprehension about the acceptability and allocation of funds. 

The Association pursued their efforts by submitting a copy of the earlier letter to the new administration in the Secretariat. However, the GCC commissioner who was witness to our sufferings assured us of his support to ensure the work gets included in the overall plan in Chennai for improvement to SWD work. 

Finally, we could see our area included in the work GCC intended to take up. 

The department was kind enough to share the design once it was internally approved for construction. We could see that the suggestions given by us were considered and the proposed new design would meet the requirement at least for the next two decades if maintained well. 

A couple of months later, the department awarded the order and the agency assigned to our area took up the work. 

The construction of the new SWD and strengthening of the existing drain in some locations took three months. 

After the completion of SWD, there were occasional spells when rainwater flowed easily into the drain leaving the road free from stagnation within hours after the rain stopped. The total length of SWD under the jurisdiction and which the RWA took up and supported is 1.75 km. 

As the construction work of SWD was underway on 18th and 19th Avenue, the Association continued its persuasion with the Highways Department for taking up the drain work in the adjoining 100 feet road. This was to enable the water at the higher elevation to flow into the drain and take its course.

This was understood by Highway Officials and they took up the work. The drain on the west side of 100 feet road completed recently runs straight up to Jaffarkhanpet / Ekkaduthangal and joins Cooum. 

Since the completion of SWD work, we have not had a cyclone yet it is expected that as and when it rains heavily, problems and misery as faced in 2021 will not surface and residents will feel at ease within hours after it stops raining. 

The construction of SWD was not without its side effects. The deployment of heavy earth-moving machinery resulted in damage to existing Metrowater and sewer lines. Many residents did not get metro water or found a foul smell in their sump due to the mixing of sewage with Metrowater. 

The Association has taken up this issue separately with CMWSSB.

Lessons learned: 

  1. Teamwork pays, especially when we have to take up grievances with the government for a cause related to the masses.
  2. Shun the thought that all government officials are inefficient and corrupt. In our effort, we interacted with more than fifty officials at various levels. We found many officials receptive to our grievance, working tirelessly and very hard all through day and night for public welfare. 
  3. Understand the problems faced by government officials and support them. 
  4. Be tolerant and exude patience when faced with the transfer of officials/ change of government during the process. Blaming a new person for tardiness serves no purpose. 
  5. Last but not least- maintain cordial relations with the government officials. 

Also read:


  1. Ramamurti saroja says:

    We need to voice against night demolition and noise ,lack of scaffolding during construction and post demolition in Ashok nagar

    • S Raghavan says:

      Pl indicate the precise location in Ashok Nagar where the problem is noticed by you. Alternately get in touch with me.

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