A canal that has gone off track in Madurai

A weak track will be an invitation to disaster

MADURAI: The ‘crossing’ commences early in the morning. It lasts late into the night. Students, workers, commuters and elderly people from residential areas take these narrow lanes at the back of TVS Nagar, climb up the Madurai-Tirumangalam railway track, get down on the other side and get into a dingy alley to reach the arterial Tirupparankundram Road at Palanganatham. In between, several trains cross the track.

OBNOXIOUS:Sewage water stagnating near T.V.S.Nagar Railway line in Madurai. — Photo: S. James.

Ever since the work of construction of a subway linking the TVS Nagar Road with Palanganatham Junction was taken up, leading to the closure of the road, people have been frequently taking this short but very risky route to reach the nearest Palanganatham bus stop.

The path once taken to reach Palanganatham in a hurry has turned into a routine. Besides two openings, a third path has been created by bringing down a fence on the TVS Nagar side. Those driving two and four-wheelers prefer the nearest Alagappan Nagar and a little circuitous Jaihindpuram Main Road to reach the Tirupparankundram Road. The problem does not end here.

People climb up the track, look to right and left and at the signals and climb down. From three openings on the TVS Nagar side, they enter the alley which provides room for just one person to walk through. The cement slabs, which barely cover the sewage line that occupies a major portion of the length of the alley, provide a peep into the waste – plastic and organic – that goes down the drain. Most of the slabs are broken and a missed step results in a damaged knee.

The drain, which snaked its way parallel to the track, has been blocked at two places now, in view of the construction work. As a result, there is a huge pool of sewage abutting the railway line. The vent, which once allowed passage for surplus water from the Madakulam tank to reach Kovalan Nagar, is chocked with garbage.

The drain used to be a storm water and surplus water carrier not very long ago. It has degenerated into a drain, recalled K. Chandrasekaran, a resident. After crossing the Tirupparankundram Road, it branched off into two. While the main canal ran up to Avaniapuram, the sub-canal went to Kovalan Nagar. The water that flowed in the canal was meant for irrigation. The flat bed of the defunct water carrier has been encroached on both sides, creating an alley. The drain carries the waste generated by the food joints, business establishments and marriage halls that do not have a link to the underground drainage on Tirupparankundram Road.

A walk down the alley is not only risky but also nauseating. The foul smell generated by the drain is unbearable. In the absence of any lighting, women using the passage in the night are at risk. The walls on both sides are so high that even a shout would not attract attention on any side.

The added problem of the drain is proliferation of the mosquito population in the area. Residents on one flank of the railway line complain of a mysterious fever striking them. But a graver threat is to the railway line itself. “Water stagnation for a longer period will weaken the ballast support for the track. Worse will be the situation during monsoon season,” said N. Vaidyanathan, former Joint Chief Engineer, Public Works Department, a resident of TVS Nagar. A weak track would be an invitation to disaster. Over 20 express trains pass through the track daily, many of them during night or early morning. But they are now operated at slow speed due to the construction work and this enables the people crossing the track to wait.

Many people, including children and the aged, use the narrow concrete platform on both sides of the track to reach home or school. At high speed, a miscalculation in crossing the track will mean threat to life.

S. Annamalai – From THE HINDU

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