CHENNAI: Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday asked all state governments to take immediate action against encroachments on water bodies. “We have to learn lessons from the floods in Chennai. I feel the time has come to take it on a war-footing and remove these encroachments, both public and private,” he told reporters, after meeting chief minister J Jayalalithaa at the secretariat on Sunday.

After a 40-minute meeting with the chief minister, other ministers and senior officials, Naidu told reporters that the Centre was willing to “extend all support required in this hour of crisis” to the state.

Naidu said he had discussed the issue of encroachments on the Cooum and Buckingham Canal in Chennai with the chief minister. He added that this was not an issue only in Tamil Nadu, it was happening in Andhra Pradesh and other states as well.

“The reservoirs are shrinking, lakes are shrinking, rivers are shrinking,” he said. To avoid future tragedies like the devastation caused by the recent floods in Chennai, water bodies have to be expanded, reservoirs and bunds should be strengthened, he said. Efforts should be made to maintain a ‘green belt’ of anywhere between 5 m and 30 m on riverbanks, to safeguard against flooding, he said.

On Sunday, Naidu visited flood-hit areas like Tambaram, Velachery, Ekkaduthangal and Kotturpuram here, and interacted with residents.

According to an official release, the chief minister asked the urban development ministry to provide a special package of 4,500 crore to take up restoration work in urban local bodies severely affected due to the recent rains.

Jayalalithaa drew his attention on the extensive damage caused to roads, drinking water, sewerage and stormwater drainage systems in flood-affected urban local bodies, the release said.

“The urban local bodies, including Chennai Corporation would require substantial assistance for restoration. Preliminary estimates of the requirement exceed 4,500 crore,” Jayalalithaa was quoted as saying in the release.

Since the local bodies “cannot rely on their own source of tax revenue” to take up restoration work, she urged Naidu to grant the special package.

Jayalalithaa pointed out that the slum dwellers living along the Adyar, Cooum and Buckingham Canal lost their homes and belongings in the floods, and are housed in relief centres. She informed Naidu about a special project to construct alternative housing for 50,000 families who lost their houses, requiring funding of Rs 5,000 crore.

The chief minister also requested Naidu for speedy approval of the Rs 3,770 crore Metrorail Phase-I project running from Washermanpet to Thiruvottiyur. In his response, the union minister said that the project was approved by the ministry of urban development and has been sent to the public investment board in the finance ministry for clearance, according to the release.

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Source: TOI-Che