The Buckingham Canal is a manmade, saltwater, navigation canal that runs parallel to the Coromandel Coast in the north-south direction. It was built in phases from 1800 till 1882 and measures approximately 800 km in length from Vijayawada to Marakkanam. Within the Chennai metropolitan area, the canal connects the three rivers—Kosasthalaiyar, Cooum, and Adyar—that cut across Chennai. Though primarily constructed to transport goods from Vijayawada to Madras, the canal also helps manage floodwaters. Archival photographs show the canal to be an idyllic setting with lush green edges and wooden catamarans cruising its course. Today, however, 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.

In light of this situation, EYES ON THE CANAL is an initiative focused on reimagining the Buckingham Canal in Chennai as part of the Cities Fit for Climate Change project. Cities Fit for Climate Change is a global project implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and its International Climate Initiative (IKI). The project also cooperates with the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI).The selected cities – Chennai in India, Santiago in Chile and Durban (eThekwini) in South Africa – are supported in developing their climate-sensitive strategies and their own sources of financing.

EYES ON THE CANAL is an exercise in participatory planning to make the canal a livable place for the residents of Chennai. The initiative will involve various activities such as awareness walks, community engagement meetings and an open-ideas competition to generate interest and ownership for the canal which has suffered from our collective abandonment.

Watch this space and be a part of the action!