Eyes on the Canal

The Buckingham Canal is a man made, saltwater, navigation canal that runs parallel to the Coromandel Coast in the north-south direction. Today, 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 livable 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.

What did we do?

Eyes on the canal involved documentation of the existing conditions of the canal, archiving its past and collectively plotting the canal’s future through various stakeholder engagement exercises. 

The yearlong project also involved collaboratively working with experts in launching an open competition that resulted in generating over 80 design-based submissions for the revival of the canal. Three winning teams were hand-held in developing a detailed implementation plan that integrated with the City’s plans for revival of the Canal. 

One of the initiative’s primary motives was focused on engaging with local communities and creating a renewed sense of ownership towards the canal. We did this through conducting several public walks and mapping exercises with diverse community and user groups of the Canal. These exercises resulted in the publication of rapid neighbourhood assessment reports, where opportunities for development were identified within neighbourhood and community-initiated projects were proposed to the city government.

Project team: Vidhya Mohankumar, Abinaya Rajavelu, Srivardhan Rajalingham and our beloved volunteers

Partner organisations: GIZ and Greater Chennai Commission (GCC)