Eyes on the Canal Chennai, India

PROJECT OVERVIEW: The Buckingham Canal is a manmade, saltwater, navigation canal that runs parallel to the Coromandel Coast in the north-south direction. It was built in phases from 1800 till 1882 and measures approximately 800 km in length from Vijayawada to Marakkanam. Within the Chennai metropolitan area, the canal connects the three rivers— Kosasthalaiyar, Cooum, and Adyar —that cut across Chennai. Though primarily constructed to transport goods from Vijayawada to Madras, the canal also helps manage floodwaters. Archival photographs show the canal to be an idyllic setting with lush green edges and wooden catamarans cruising its course. Today, however, the canal is faced with severe pollution woes with untreated sewage and solid waste finding their way into its waters. The numerous encroachments too have severely compromised its width and carrying capacity over long stretches within the Chennai Metropolitan area. Over the years, various governmental agencies have struggled to revive the canal but continue to do so even to this date. EYES ON THE CANAL is an exercise in participatory planning to make the canal a liveable place for the residents of Chennai. The initiative involves various activities such as awareness walks, community mapping exercises, stakeholder engagement meetings and an open-ideas competition to generate interest and ownership towards the canal, which has suffered from collective abandonment.

CATEGORY: Professional SETTING: Urban STATUS: On-going

BY: Urban Design Collective

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: is at the heart of the EYES ON THE CANAL project. In Phase 1 (April-December 2018) several public walks were conducted to build awareness about the state of the canal. Perception surveys covered 250 households in an effort to understand their present-day relationship to the canal. These findings were compiled into content for a public exhibition and a national-level open ideas competition was launched. Phase 1 ended with the announcement of winners for the open-ideas competition. Phase 2 (January-April 2019) focused on design development of the winning ideas with continuous feedback from the residents who would be immediate stakeholders of the project. Phase 2 ended with detailed design proposals by the winning teams which were presented to all the relevant public sector agencies. Phase 3 (May 2019 onwards) will involve activities such as participatory mapping with school students, archiving, public programming & tactical urbanism projects. In order to execute the planned activities, the following partnerships will need to be forged:

MRTS/ Southern Railway, Greater Chennai Corporation Parks Department, Greater Chennai Corporation Education Department & public schools, Colleges of architecture in the city , resident groups and citizen action groups

PARTNERS: EYES ON THE CANAL is commissioned by the project “Cities Fit for Climate Change”. This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. The project also cooperates with the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI). EYES ON THE CANAL is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in coordination with the Greater Chennai Corporation. Residents of Kotturpuram and Kasturibai Nagar were active neighbourhood level stakeholders and were involved during the design research and development stages. Webe Design Lab supported the project in the initial stages with on-ground documentation. In addition, several individuals have contributed to the project and have been acknowledged at this link.





A series of short films were made for the project and can be found at this link.