What ails Ward 197? Lack of SWD and garbage collection woes

The problems in the ward range from coastal erosion in the fishing villages to flooding and the lack of a proper solid waste management system

With people from different strata of society living here, Ward 197 is a study in contrasts. East Coast Road (ECR) cuts through the area, moving in a relatively straight line, towards Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry. On the side closer to the sea, large, empty bungalows line canopied streets, waiting for their owners to visit them on the weekend.

However, on the other side of ECR, the roads become smaller and muddier, the houses no longer have security guards at their doorsteps, and the dogs are strays, not pedigrees being exercised by a dog-walker. Land closer to the beach is higher in value, and so, ECR splits the ward in half in more ways than one.

This ward is one of eight others in Greater Chennai Corporation’s Zone 15, annexed into city limits in 2011, and the newest part of the city. The ward begins in Akkarai, and extends along ECR up until Uthandi; it includes parts of Kanathur and fishing villages such as Nainarkuppam and Panaiyurkuppam.


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Challenges of a newly-added ward

drains
Construction of stormwater drains is ongoing at Ward 197. Pic courtesy: C K Kumar

As such, it has not been fully integrated into the services of the corporation. After years of complaints and requests, Sholinganallur was only just connected to the city’s Metro Water and sewage network, something that the residents of Ward 197 are still in the process of getting. “Water, power and sewage, nothing is structured,” says CK Kumar, member of the Juhu Beach Residents’ Association. “Improvements are being put in place, but they are still incomplete.”

Communication from the local government tends to be erratic, or absent altogether. “Our roads are in shambles due to constant digging and construction work,” says Kumar. “They never give us prior information about it.” Kumar and his association have worked towards ensuring a more stable electricity connection by building a rapport with the electricity board engineers.

They ensure that they are not dependent on overhead cables that are easily affected by turbulent weather. “Every time it rains, there is a power cut,” he says. “If there were regular and planned power outages, we can handle it, but these are all erratic.”

Solid waste management issues

Being disconnected from the City’s network is a common difficulty for the people in Ward 197. Seema Duger is a resident of Akkarai, and she runs a marble emporium right on the main road. For the past few months, her garbage has not been collected by the corporation.

“There used to be a garbage bin in the street next to us,” she says. “I would carry my waste and dispose of it there.” However, the bin was removed, making the closest possible option a kilometre away. She notes that her daughters have sometimes driven there with their garbage, but that it is not something that she can consistently do.

“I compost most of my waste, I just need to dispose of the plastic,” she says, “but every corporation truck that drives by claims to be assigned to another street.” Seema has raised complaints on the GCC website, but has never got any response.

Waiting for a drainage system

Menaga Shankar, the councillor for Ward 197 says that a lack of e-Sevai centres and an effective drainage system as two of the major problems for the residents in her ward. “The people of Nainarkuppam face difficulties during the monsoon,” she says, referring to one of the fishing villages of the region.


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Water logging is a major issue in the ward as the drainage system is not properly developed. In many parts of the ward, the stormwater drains have not been fully laid. “The faster there is a drainage system, the quicker the people will feel safer when the rain and floodwater come,” says Menaka.

The needs of the people in Nainarkuppam and other fishing communities in the ward, are very different from those in the high-walled gated communities.

“The people in these areas are dependent on coastal commons,” says Durga Moorthy, from the Coastal Resource Centre, referring to the public nature of the beach. “They need the space for their livelihood, to keep their boats and make their nets.” To her, the biggest threat to their lifestyle is the privatisation of coastal areas, along with rapid coastal erosion due to human activity. This is shrinking the space that these communities need to perform their livelihood.

Connecting with the people

The different communities of Ward 197, from the fishing villages to the more upmarket localities near the beach, face issues that range in severity and urgency, but they all call for a more thoughtful and involved local body. “There was a large-scale government outreach during the COVID pandemic but nothing similar has happened of late,” says Kumar.

This lack of outreach is visible in the fact that many people have no idea who their councillor is, or that such a position exists in the corporation’s system. Having awareness of the people’s representative in their ward can help resident’s reach out to the authorities with the problems in their locality. “The ward authorities should plan regular outreach with the community,” he adds.

What the residents of Ward 197 need

  • An effective sewage and stormwater drainage network
  • Effective solid waste management and door-to-door garbage collection
  • Solutions for coastal erosion in fishing hamlets
  • Regular communication and outreach by ward-level officials

Residents can reach out to the Ward 197 councillor on 94458 76424/ 9841257973

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