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Actively involved in public life for over 20 years, the 47-year-old Mayor of Chennai is the 44th Mayor of the city, who entered the corridors of Ripon Building as Mayor, at the age of 44 in 1996. Meet M K Stalin, the first elected Mayor of Chennai.

The son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, Stalin speaks to in this exclusive interview.

As the present set of flyovers are in the final stage of completion, do you have any plans to construct more flyovers?

M K StalinThe present set of flyovers, that is the nine flyovers which are being constructed in various parts of the city and the one in Perambur, is the product of detailed discussion in the Traffic Improvements Committee, based on traffic problem studies and on how to improve the traffic management system.

Now the issue is that we have completed five flyovers well ahead of schedule and another four will also be inaugurated well ahead of schedule, except the one at Perambur. Depending on these flyovers, it is proposed that we go ahead with seven more flyovers. The seven more flyovers were also planned in the initial stages, but they were kept on hold basically for two reasons - we wanted to finish these ten flyovers and we also wanted to concentrate on interior roads. Also, because of the construction of these flyovers the local public and the travelling public have had some amount of discomfort. If we had started all seventeen flyovers at one stretch this would have led to lot of traffic problems.

Now that we have finished these nine flyovers, it is being discussed in the Traffic Committee to go ahead with five of the seven proposed flyovers. Two of them have got problems because the other service agencies are finding it difficult to shift service lines. Work on the new five flyovers will begin soon.

What has been planned for the areas under the mini-flyovers?

New Mini FlyoverApart from building these flyovers, you would also have noticed that we have gone for major improvements of the area by allowing sponsors to come forward and beautify the place. A sponsor has come forward to put tiles on the flyover that was recently inaugurated at Radhakrishnan Salai. Similarly, in Peters Road, at an estimate of almost Rs 38/- lakhs, a major sponsor is developing a garden. With regard to the Malar Hospital flyover, we were able to develop traffic islands and fountains. So we are encouraging corporates to get involved in civic management of the city. This has actually increased during the last one year and it has started showing results.

Why are you on frequent walking campaigns?

The walking campaign was basically intended for much larger issues like Information, Education, and Communication (IEC), with regard to way of handling waste. The Corporation has completed four campaigns. People have come forward and brought to the notice of the administration certain other minor issues like storm water drains, improvement of roads and those issues relating to Metrowater. Since all officials are also part of this walk, it has been very easy addressing these issues. The response has been tremendous.

What has been the response to the latest move to privatise Conservancy operations?

As of now the ONYX operations will be restricted to only three of the city zones. The initial response of the people towards this operation has been good. The company takes two or three weeks to settle down, because people have to get used to depositing waste in the specially designed, moveable bins. Subsequently, almost three weeks after the initial start, the overall impact, from both the public-response and the visual point of view, has been very good.

CES OnyxWhat is the main area that the Corporation needs to concentrate on now?

Apart from the mini-flyovers and ONYX, the Chennai Corporation is also seriously involved in improving the interior roads, which have been damaged due to development works taken up by other service agencies. So, our attention this year is exclusively on improving the interior roads. Further, the Corporation will also look into improvement of the two landfills at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi.

On an average, how many grievances do you receive?

Initially, when I took over as Mayor, we were getting 200 to 300 grievances. During that time the majority of grievances were related to requirements of storm water drains. For the last three to four months, the grievances have come down and now, on an average, we get only 30 to 40 petitions. It is definitely an improvement. But this does not mean that we have nothing more to do. Definitely we have many more things to do.

Do you have any proposal for desilting the city waterways?

M K StalinCity waterways involve a number of agencies. The component of the Public Works Department will be to desilt major canals like Otteri Nullah, Buckingham Canal and the Cooum. The Chennai Corporation will desilt 16 minor canals and also develop a micro-drainage network. The civic body will further strive to improve and add 312 kms of strategic storm water drains to make the system work better. The Tamil Nadu Government is aiming at a muchlarger project, a Rs 1, 700/- crore project which will involve various components. All these proposals are in the advance stage of discussion with the Central Government, and once this project comes through, the problem of waterways will be solved permanently.

In your present tenure, what development has the city seen ?

Traffic management, which was totally neglected for the past 20-25 years, was brought to centre stage and we were able to deliver certain projects without cost overruns and time overruns; for instance the mini-flyovers. The Corporation is the first Corporation in India, which has gone ahead with modern methods of garbage removal on such a large scale, using a private agency.

Compared to the earlier state, when the entire city used to be waterlogged for days together after rains, we have now been able to do flood charting and provide storm water drains at strategic locations to reduce this problem to just a few hours after the rains.We have also replaced tube lights with over 30,000 sodium vapour lamps in the city. We have been able to bring civic issues into the main frame of public discussion. Finally, I should say that I have encouraged the corporate sector and the public to come forward and join with the Corporation and contribute towards the city's improvement.

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