A walk down the Taramani road, on-lookers stare in awe at the clean wide roads with well laid tarmac, with neatly maintained pavements and elegant bus-stops. This is what Chennai has to offer to its people. However reality is that a lot more happens than what just captures a wandering eye. Taking a peek beyond the glass housed sectors; I would suggest the awed on-looker to travel from Taramani station towards Chennai Beach Station via MRTS.
What greets the eye then – is reality. Jogging along with the local train is the Cooum River. A river which once facilitated trade through the ancient port of Manarpha (present day Mylapore) centuries before; and during the British rule became the predominant means of transport; has now been enslaved by ‘pollution’, a tyrant ruler. It caused the water to become heavily toxic that it cannot hold dissolved oxygen, driving out the aqua-marine species in the river. On the Cooum delta, dotes a few hundreds of hutmen huddled together in an irregular fashion, being home to the many faceless Chennai folks. On banks of a flourishing river thrives a rich settlement; however on the banks of polluted river also thrives this population, but their survival conditions is just as bad as the river could ever get. Small temporary ceiling over an enclosure of four walls is their shelter; good sanitation seems a farfetched option while mosquitoes and other insects multiply in glory. For those people survival is an everyday challenge – Poverty, they call it, whose wings are spread all through the world. This is the reality of Chennai, and the world at large. One side there are buildings and malls coming up with high-end engineering and architecture, while the other end people who live in the very same city face shelter and sanitation crisison a daily basis. As the train galloped down the track, one can see the piles of plastic waste lying around all over the huts and into the already polluted river; one can see cows living and drinking the impure waters; one can see little children playing in the sickly garbage and posters being a protection to leaking ceilings. These scenes are just a few to mention. These penuries are hidden behind the lofty roads; the artificial high life setup on the outside while all it takes is just a few yet firm baby steps to clean up the mess. It is either now or never. On one side, there are huge well maintained rest rooms in malls, being an epitome of cleanliness while; just a few hundreds of meters away people do not even have a basic one. While an entertainment arena can be maintained so well, so can a delta of once-upon-a-time fabled river.
In every difficulty lies an opportunity. A two way beneficial model can be deployed; those people can clean up the waste and garbage around the river and they will be paid wages for the same. It’s a win-win situation; their life improves both financially as well as sanitation-wise. It’s just a thought in paper for now, for a start; It is time we start thinking.