RESILIENCITY – Reimagining Chennai’s Buckingham canal


The proposal by Nous Studio in collaboration with Ar. Srinidhi Srinivasan from Chennai was shortlisted at the open idea competition  promoted by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in coordination with the Grater Chennai Corporation.  The competition was floated to rise ideas and awareness about the rehabilitation of the Buckingham Canal, once a navigable canal running parallel to the Coromandel Coast, which also acted as an effective flood buffer in time of monsoon. The canal lies now in a state of neglect, especially within the city,  due to encroachments and indiscriminate dumping of solid waste as well as sewage. With the increase of severe flooding episodes, it is a priority for the city of Chennai to restitute the canal a prominent role in preventing them as well as a dignified environment for its citizens.

The proposal is about the transformation of the Buckingham canal into a flood resilient blue-green corridor in Chennai that would grow as a vital public and recreational space. The proposed four- fold intervention includes pollution control, ecological recovery, green infrastructure, community participation & inclusivity.

Pollution control and waste management:

Many areas along the canal stretch are treated as garbage dumps. These are cleaned up with the help of local community members & NGOs and the freed up pockets of land are used to develop infrastructure like public toilets. STP for the local EWS communities, plastic waste recycling facilities, urban green pockets/green infrastructure.

Garbage traps are installed in several locations along the canal to keep solid waste pollution in check and to locate its source.

Ecological recovery and flood control:

The area near the mouth of the canal and along the Adyar River bank plays a pivotal role in the revival of local flora and fauna through the development of an ecological park which would also serve as a local attraction and a community gathering space. Due to the river bank, the canal mouth and Kotturpuram being under high flood risk, the eco-park is divided into 3 zones:

  • The mangrove zone – that would help stabilise and define the river bank.
  • A tree buffer zone filled with native species – that would enhance water percolation and prevent erosion.
  • A public park with various amenities open to the community. This includes a large central pond filled with plant species that remove miasma and pollutants. The pond acts as a spillover zone in case the river rises during monsoon.

Green  infrastructure:

The treatment of canal edge follows a continuous linear green infrastructure that acts as a sponge. This offers a physical buffer yet visual continuity.

  • Bio-swales – First level of run-off water percolation and recharge.
  • Rain gardens – Visually pleasing green strips that offer the second level of rainwater recharge and comprise species of plants that remove soil contaminants.
  • Reed beds grown along the canal purify the water through a continuous process of rhizofiltration.

The excess water from the canal during monsoons is allowed to spill over, be contained within and absorbed by these ‘sponges’.

Community participation & inclusivity:

Participatory planning process with involvement of communities adjoining the canal in its rehabilitation and maintenance.

Upgrading/ phased relocation of economically weaker families from informal settlements located in high flood risk zones encroaching the canal, into mid-rise flood resilient walk up apartments.

Provision of community facilities like children’s play area, jogging track and open air theatre. Collaborative creation of art in public spaces to foster community participation and a sense of ownership.

Development of vacant areas near the MRTS stations and along the canal into amenities which include green cover, seating spaces, walkways, access ramps and bicycle tracks shaded by the overhead MRTS line. Encouraging local businesses to set up stalls to develop the areas abutting the canal.



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