Buckingham Canal

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Coordinates: 12°59′06″N 80°15′10″E / 12.98490°N 80.25270°E / 12.98490; 80.25270

Map of the Coromandel Coast with the Buckingham Canal (French)

The Buckingham Canal is a 421.55 kilometres (261.9 mi) long fresh water navigation canal, running parallel to the Coromandel Coast of South India from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh to Villupuram District in Tamil Nadu. The canal connects most of the natural backwaters along the coast to the port of Chennai (Madras). It was constructed during the British Rule, and was an important waterway during the late nineteenth and the twentieth century.

It was first known simply as the North River by the British and was believed to be partly responsible for reducing tsunami and cyclone damage to much of the Chennai-southern Andhra coastline

Construction phases[edit]

Originally known as Cochrane's canal, the first segment of the canal was constructed as a saltwater navigation canal in 1806,[1] from Madras North to Ennore for a distance of 11 miles. It was financed by Basil Cochrane. Subsequently, it was extended north to Pulicat Lake, 40 kilometres (24.9 mi) north of Madras. The canal was taken over by the government of Madras Presidency in 1837 and further extended, ultimately reaching 315 kilometres (195.7 mi) north of Madras to Vijayawada on the bank of Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh, and 103 kilometres (64.0 mi) south of Chennai to Marakkanam in Tamil Nadu. When the canal was opened, it was named Lord Clive's Canal and later as Buckingham Canal. However, the section in Madras had been known as Cochrane's canal for much of the 19th century.[2]

During 1877 and 1878 the people of Madras suffered from the terrible Great Famine and more than 6 million people perished. The 8-kilometre (5.0 mi) stretch, linking the Adyar and Cooum rivers, was built in 1877-78 at a cost of Rs.3 millions as a famine relief work. The canal was named the Buckingham Canal in 1878 because the link, was built on the orders of the then Governor, the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.

Course of the canal[edit]

The canal runs approximately 1 km (0.62 mi) back from the coastline. The Cooum River connects the canal to the Bay of Bengal in the center of Chennai. The portion north of the Cooum is known as the North Buckingham Canal, and the portion south of the Cooum as the South Buckingham Canal. 257 km (160 mi) of the canal is in Andhra Pradesh, and 163 km (101 mi) is in Tamil Nadu. Approximately 31 km (19 mi) is within the city limits of Chennai.

Variations in canal width between Cooum and Adyar rivers (Source: HSCTC feasibility report)
Stretch Original (survey) width (m) Existing width (m)
Minimum Maximum Minimum Maximum
Adyar River–Greenways Road 107 116 25 31
Greenways Road–Kamaraj Salai 115 123 25 33
Kamaraj Salai–Venkatakrishna Road 98 123 33 48
Venkatakrishna Road–St. Mary's Road 122 123 37 38
St. Mary's Road–Agraharam Road 133 143 28 38
Agraharam Road–Kutchery Road 113 117 33 37
Kutchery Road–P.V.Koil Street 114 134 34 39
P.V.Koil Street–Radhakrishna Street 117 133 25 38
Radhakrishna Street–Avvai Shanmugam Salai 120 122 30 32
Avvai Shanmugam Salai–Besant Road 100 109 25 34
Besant Road–Barathi Salai 89 110 24 25
Barathi Salai–Wallaja Road 80 111 30 36
Wallaja Road–Swami Sivanandha Salai 42 73 32 36
Swami Sivanandha Salai–Cooum River 80 93 25 28

Decline in usage[edit]

Section of the Canal near RA Puram with MRTS

The canal was formerly used to convey goods up and down the coast from Vijayawada to Madras (now Chennai). The cyclones of 1965/1966 and 1976 damaged the canal, and it is presently little used and no longer well maintained. Within the city of Chennai the canal is badly polluted from sewage and industrial effluents, and the silting up of the canal has left the water stagnant, creating an attractive habitat for malaria-spreading mosquitoes. The North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTP) discharges hot water and fly ash into the canal as well. In agricultural areas South of Chennai the former tow path along the scenic areas is still used for light motorcycle and bicycle traffic. On January 1, 2001 the Government of India launched a project to prevent sewage outfalls into the canal and Chennai's other waterways, and to dredge the canal to remove accumulated sediment and improve water flow.

Within the city limits of Chennai much of the canal has been used as the route of the elevated Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS). MRTS stations such as Kotturpuram, Kasturba Nagar and Indira Nagar have encroached on the canal and narrowed the width of the canal to less than 50 meters in few places.[3]

Buckingham Canal is the most polluted of the three major waterways in the city with nearly 60 per cent of the estimated 55 million litres of untreated sewage being let into it daily, including by Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board.[4]

Effect of the Tsunami[edit]

Dr. B. Ramalingeswara Rao first identified buffer zone action of Buckingham Canal when he visited coastal areas of 300 kilometres (186.4 mi) along the coast and also he recommended to the Government to renovate the same to mitigate the Tsunami Hazards in future. Further, Ramalingeswara Rao (2005) reported as: During the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Buckingham Canal acted as a buffer zone and regulated the Tsunami waves on the coastal region over nearly 310 kilometres (192.6 mi) from Pedda Ganjam to Chennai. The canal all along the coast was filled with Tsunami water, which overflowed at a few places and receded back to sea within 10-15 min. This helped save the lives of several fishermen, especially in coastal Andhra Pradesh and parts of Chennai city and also helped in clearing of the aquaculture debris. The natural growth of vegetation on either side of the canal, has had an effect in Tsunami mitigation; for example in Vakadu Mandal at villages like Pudikappam, Srinivasapuram and Tudipalem, the damages were minimal.

Ramalingeswara Rao had further assessed on the extension of Buckingham Canal up to Vedaranyam in order to protect Tamil Nadu coast from the fury of Tsunamis in future. The maximum magnitude MW 8.5 may occur in future in Sumatra because of its continuous subduction activity.

Revamp of the Canal[edit]

Map of Chennai City showing the Buckingham Canal. The Canal runs perpendicular to Coovum and Adayar rivers.

Revival of Buckingham canal took shape by government's National Waterway (NW-4) declaration on November, 2008. Both North Buckingham (Peddakanjam, Ongole-Chennai) and south Buckingham (basin bridge, Chennai - Marakkanam) canal will be developed under the proposed National Waterway 4 by Inland waterways authority of India. Periodically, government of Tamil Nadu also takes up dredging and widening of the canal through Water Resources Department, Public Works Department (PWD). With the provisions of State-Center shared Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission JNNURM, PWD has started widening the South Buckingham Canal from Okkiyam Madu to Muttukadu for a stretch of 13.5 kilometres (8.4 mi)[5] About Rs.1447.91 crore has been allocated under the JNNURM for integrated development of waterways and macro drainages like Buckingham canal, Otteri Nullah, Virugambakkam – Arumbakkam drain, Cooum and Adyar river.[6] Despite of the development, the central section of the canal running through the most congested areas of Chennai, a length of 7.1 kilometres (4.4 mi) will remain unnavigable due to severe encroachments and construction of the Chennai Mass Rapid Transport System.

On 22 January 2010, Government of Tamil Nadu has reconstituted the Adayar Poonga Trust as Chennai River Restoration Trust for restoration of Chennai rivers (Adayar river, Cooum river) including the Buckingham Canal. In 2011 improvements were being undertaken on the 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) stretch between Okkiyam Madu and Muttukadu under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The canal was being widened to 100 metres (328.1 ft) and a U.S.A. built dredge was being used to deepen the canal to 2.4 metres (8 ft). Also under this project, six small causeways across the canal would be reconstructed into single-lane bridges[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jan Lundqvist, Paul Appasamy (Nov 1993). "Water Supply and Waste Disposal Strategies for Madras". Ambio, (Allen Press on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) 22 (7): 442–448. JSTOR 4314123. 
  2. ^ Darvill, Simon (December 2011). "India's First Railways". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 3 Nov 2012. 
  3. ^ Encroachment of MRTS stations on the Canal
  4. ^ Lakshmi, K.; Deepa H Ramakrishnan (29 September 2011). "Untreated sewage pollutes waterways". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 2 Oct 2011. 
  5. ^ The Hindu (25 July 2010) (25 July 2010). "South Buckingham Canal widening". Chennai, India. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Public Works Department, Government of Tamilnadu. "Policy Note (2010-2011), Public Works Department of Tamilnadu". Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  7. ^ K. Lakshmi (2011-01-25), "Imported machinery deployed to desilt South Buckingham canal", The Hindu (Chinnai: Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd), retrieved 2011-01-26 

B. Ramalingeswara Rao (2005). buckingham Canal saved people in Andhra Pradesh (India) from the tsunami of 26 December 2004. current Science vol. 89, 12-13.