wall art in the making

Garbage-ridden street gets a new life

The abusing of public spaces is one of the biggest community issues of the era. Everywhere we go, we see garbage strewn on the roads, careless parking of vehicles, walls all dirty and covered with posters, and just mayhem. Someone needs to take action and fix this, right?

The couple on a mission

Luckily, Shivkumar and Umamaheswari, husband and wife, take up this seemingly impossible task and make a difference to the users of public spaces. S. Shivkumar, the founder of an organisation called Karam Korpom (roughly translates as ‘Let’s join hands’), is a professional in designing and eLearning with more than 30 years of experience. He studied Mechanical Engineering and did his Masters in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. His wife V. Umamaheswari, a Civil Engineer holds an MBA in HR (Human Resources). She is also a joint secretary of the Mylapore Welfare Association and is an expert in sustainable waste management and water conservation.

Team Kalvivaru Street
The team that was a part of transforming Kalvivaru Street, Mylapore, Chennai
What does Karam Korpom do?

Karam Korpom is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization based in Chennai that aims to protect the environment through various activities such as wall arts, awareness programs among many others. They invite the local community to participate in their frequent wall art events in various localities in Chennai, to make the public feel the ownership of their neighbourhood. Everyone, from all age groups, comes together to paint the walls. Stop Abusing Public Spaces (SAPS) is an activity under the control of the Karam Korpom Foundation which identifies abused public spaces and works towards cleaning them up. The organization has completed nearly 55 projects so far and has transformed about 80 lakh square meters of area into clean space.

The Wall Art on Kalvi Varu street, Mylapore, Chennai

Earlier this year, in May, the NGO assembled in Kalvi Varu street in the Mylapore neighbourhood of Chennai with buckets of paints and a bundle of paintbrushes. They were all set to paint the 400-meter long compound wall behind Vidya Mandir School and in front of the Buckingham Canal, now not in use and hence is full of filth. “Kalvi Varu Street was a heavily abused street,” says Shivkumar. “There was a school on one side and a canal on the other. And no one took proper care of it. It was like a ‘free-for-all kind’ of situation.”

Watch the video report 

With the help of the then local MLA Dr. R.Nataraj, the Mylapore Welfare Association, the Vidya Mandir Alumni Association, and the Chennai Smart City Limited, the NGO was able to mobilise enough funds to successfully carry out this project. This project was based on the designs submitted by architect Kavitha Selvaraj who has driven the project that was executed by Greater Chennai Corporation.

During the street restoration, adults and students from all walks of life came together to participate in the event. “We focused on three themes,” Shivkumar continues, “One section is about the historical aspect of the Buckingham Canal, one is a small playground area for the children in the locality, and a ‘butterfly zone’, which serves as a good selfie spot.”

How they maintain it:

Painting the walls is one thing. But maintaining them is a whole another. But luckily, this is not a major problem. “We don’t face any issues when it comes to maintenance of the walls,” says Shivakumar. “The locals are accountable for their creation. And we believe that if the painting is nice and colourful, it will automatically be less prone to abuse.”


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