Every time we take people on a heritage walk of Mylapore and we are in the Sanskrit College neighbourhood, we sigh.
How do we explain to our guests the history of the Buckingham Canal?
A Canal which is today full of rotting garbage and stinking sewage.
A canal of civic shame.
But if you follow this canal off the East Coast Road after you have left the city behind and travel south, the stream of water is a visual treat.
You should coax your parents or grandparents who have been on a boat trip on this canal to recall their wistful experiences on a quiet weekend.
This week, architect Dr. Bimal Patel from Ahmedabad was in our city to share his experiences. Experiences of a unique public project that is being executed in this west Indian city.
The Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project.
This is a project of the local Corporation. But it draws on the talent and experiences of a group of professionals like Patel. And it is a project handled by a formal company.
It is a project to revitalise a river which runs through the heart of Ahmedabad and has fallen on bad days.
The project aims to keep the river clean, build promenades, walkways, parks and leisure spaces on the river banks, reclaim some land from the river to develop it, to resettle families from the slums on the banks in housing blocks in this region and to sell some of the 'reclaimed' real estate to raise monies which will pay for the project.
The first phase of constructing the promenade is on now. Also on is the construction of a sewage pipeline which will link up with the maze of existing sewage lines which empty muck and dirt into this river.
Patel was invited to our city by Chennai Heritage, a voluntary body which has the city's civic and heritage issues at its heart. The effort was made in order to get civic officials, industrialists and the leading lights of Chennai to take a good look at the Sabarmati project and to sow the seeds of a Chennai project which would revitalise our waterways.
We have three waterways. The Cooum, Buckingham Canal and the Adyar.
In the past, the state has floated many projects to 'clean' the waterways. Lots of money has been spent on these projects. And piles of files on this subject now gather dust.
Perhaps the time has come for Chennai's people to join hands with Chennai Corporation to earnestly get behind the waterways project.
Over to the doers.