The Indian city of Chennai (aka Madras) depends heavily on other districts in Tamil Nadu and other states for its supply of food stuffs, as was rediscovered during the March lockdowns. This way, the pandemic has strongly underlined the need for Chennai to be self-reliant. But how can the city attain that self-sustainability?
‘Who feeds Chennai?’, a body of research conducted by the Urban Design Collective (UDC) — a collaborative platform for participatory planning to create liveable cities — during the lockdown, provides ideas on how that can be achieved. The study throws up interesting insights on the food supply chain in the city.
Srivardhan Rajalingam, an Associate at UDC, spoke about the study and how Chennai could be transformed into a self-reliant, food smart city. He claimed that traditionally, the supply to Chennai has mostly come from other states in India and some were also imported from other countries. Besides cities from Tamil Nadu, the state received supplies from cities such as Mulbagal, Wayanad, Nasik and Nagpur.
Regarding lessons learned, he said: “Ever since the lockdown started, the food supply chain in the city has been transformed, mainly due to the travel restrictions. Home delivery service providers like Swiggy and Zomato began delivering groceries and fruits and vegetables besides cooked food.”
“When the Koyambedu market emerged as one of the major clusters contributing to the rise of COVID cases in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, we looked at the short-term option of introducing intermediary delivery service providers (IDSPs). This way, the number of retailers visiting the market can be reduced; instead, one vehicle can transport the supply to 10 or 20 retailers in a neighbourhood.”
“This can be further coordinated by setting up a platform, that is not entirely digital, to connect retailers with the traders at the market. The mechanism can be implemented during situations that call for crowd control at the Koyambedu.”