Chennai receives about 65% of her rainfall between Oct and Nov. This year Chennai received record breaking rains since 1918. About 500mm rain fell on 1st and 2nd Dec alone. Floods in Chennai during this period are routine.
This year the flood was catastrophic. These floods not only exposed the unpreparedness of the city administration but also exposed the large scale illegal construction facilitated by the greedy politician-bureaucrat nexus which loses no opportunity to make money by ignoring the environment. Chennai experienced the tragedy. Other urban centers would face a similar fate in case struck by heavy rain.
Main reasons: Floods
- The record rainfall.
- Delay in opening of the sluice gates of the Chembarambakkam Reservoir .
- Poor urban planning.
Unfolding of Tragedy
With the onslaught of NE monsoonal rains in the city the officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) on studying the forecast by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) advised the PWD secretary and other officials to bring down the water level of Chembarambakkam reservoir to about 18ft as opposed to that of 22ft in order to contain the predicted rainfall which was about to lash the Coromandel Coast. The capacity of Chembarambakkam reservoir is about 24ft and it feeds the Adyar River which cuts across the city before meeting the Bay of Bengal.
According to the advice given by the officials of the PWD water was to be released in the outskirts of the city so as to empty the reservoir and prepare it for incoming rainwater. Action was delayed by the administration. This delay in opening the sluice gates forced the authorities to release about 33500 cusecs of water into the Adyar River. This was more than the holding capacity of the river as it has been narrowed by poor urban planning of the city administration. This caused the river to swell and inundate almost all of South Chennai. The problem escalated as Athannur Lake breached and released an additional 5000 cusecs of water in the Adyar River. Had the city administration acted timely this disaster could have been averted, or the magnitude of damage reduced.
Poor Urban Planning
Another factor adding to the floods was the poor urban planning. As per the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority(CMDA) there are about 1.5 lakh illegal structures in Chennai built over water bodies ignoring the basic requirement of storm water drainage. This caused water to seep into the structures and weaken them.
Cooum River,Adyar River and Buckingham Canal which serve as the main drainage source of the city have been seeing encroachments. Another problem is that of garbage disposal as mass scale littering in the water bodies in and around Chennai has added a garbage of about 30 thousand million cubic feet. There are about 3600 water bodies in Chennai,Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur districts. These interconnected water bodies sum up the drainage system of Chennai.
It is now high time that the government should address these issues and should look into the internal administration of the city which has incurred heavy losses due to the recent flood. There have been insurance claims of up to Rs 2000 crores and this figure is expected to rise. The city is now standing on the brink of an epidemic with the state government trying to contain the advent of the water borne diseases caused by the flood. The state government has demanded Rs 8000 crore grant from the centre to bolster the rehabilitation program. Many state governments have announced grants for the people of Tamil Nadu.
As per reports the focus of AIADMK workers was to paste Jaya stickers on relief material. The government and administration only earned discredit in the Chennai flood tragedy.
Shining Part: Flood Tragedy
The Armed Forces and NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) worked commendably to help the people get to safety, rescuing them from literally everywhere. A total of 30000 people were evacuated and rescued by the operations carried out by the duo. These two were ably assisted by volunteers who emerged as heroes in doing selfless service in the tragedy.
Wake Up Call
This is a wakeup call for the state governments and administrations to act against poor urban planning rampant in all of India to facilitate proper drainage of rainwater, or be prepared for similar tragedies.
Note: This is a guest blog by Utkanth Sharma. He can be contacted at: +919824869963 or, firstname.lastname@example.org