CHENNAI: The first AIADMK Mayor of Chennai, Saidai Duraisamy, has had a decisive mandate in the just-concluded elections. It’s now time to deliver. His party boss and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa set a challenging agenda before him for the city’s development during the run up to the polls. For his part, Duraisamy said he would do his best to live up to her expectations and deliver on her promises of a clean city and a clean administration. “As per the instructions of Amma, I would concentrate on fulfilling all requirements of basic amenities of the people on a war footing,” he told Express over phone.
But look at the challenges before him. While a clean and transparent administration depends solely upon the leadership, a clean city is something that is not easy to achieve.
The Chennai Corporation is yet to find a solution to its garbage woes. In the last regime, the private party involved in removing garbage from parts of the city, Neel Metal Fanalca, an Indo-US joint venture company, drew flak for poor performance. A dissatisfied Corporation Council recommended gradual withdrawal of operation. A new agency is to be selected through tenders for clearing garbage from January 1, 2012. Going by past experience, a total solution to the garbage problem would be a tall order.
Given the AIADMK’s thumping majority in the Corporation Council - 168 seats out of a total of 200 – you can safely assume that proposals for projects would get the green light. But after the recent expansion of the city from 174 sq km to 426 sq km, the challenge would be to improve the infrastructure, especially the roads, lanes and bylanes of the areas recently brought under city limits.
A total of 42 local bodies, municipalities and town panchayats were merged with the Chennai Corporation area to extend the city limits. But basic amenities like good roads, systematic garbage removal, sanitation and school infrastructure in these areas are not on par with the rest of Chennai Corporation. Bridging the gap will not be easy.
While systematic garbage disposal is in disarray in the city, it has been worse in the areas that were merged recently. In most of these local bodies, dumping of garbage had been a contentious issue as they are fast running out for space. There is no space either at the pre-merger Corporation either as its two dumpyards - Perungudi and Kodungaiyur - are full. Besides, the civic body is also on a sticky wicket over the implementation of scientific disposal of garbage mandated under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.
The smaller version of the city produced 3,200 metric tonnes of garbage everyday, as per Corporation records. The extended areas would only add to its woes. A few years ago, an attempt by a group of local bodies led by the Ambattur Municipality to create a dumpyard at Kuthambakkam village attracted vociferous protests from the residents.
Yet another area that needs immediate focus is public health and sanitation. Malaria is a perennial problem with thousands of patients getting infected each year. Besides, the menacing mosquito bites cannot be wished away. Cleaning up the waterways and preventing stagnation of water alone can check mosquito breeding. Is that doable in the short term?
The list of problems faced by people in the city is endless. The task ahead for the new Mayor and the Council would be to identify them, prioritise and set a deadline for implementation. Singara Chennai remained a dream. Would Ezhilmigu Chennai become a reality?