The Tamil Nadu government is currently busy tackling the horrific floods that have hit Chennai. However, once things settle down, there is a lot of course correction that the government and the Chennai city authorities would have to take to ensure that such a disaster does not occur again.
The experts say that this is a man made disaster. Due to illegal constructions which include several multi-storey buildings and industries nearly 300 water bodies have disappeared and this has been one of the main reasons for the city flooding in this manner.
Price of development:
There has been development all around Chennai, but then it has come at a price. 5,550 hectares of wetlands in Velachery, Pallikaranai and Old Mahabalipuram Road are today commercial hubs.
When there are concrete structures on wetlands, there is no place for the water to go, but flow into the city.
Experts say that there is an urgent need to cut down on construction. There is a lot of damage that has already been done, but in future the authorities could take more care, experts would also point out.
The lowlands cannot continue to fill up without proper planning. There needs to be more space for stormwater to drain and the government must take all measures to stop encroachment of the river banks.
If only the government had acted on the PIL:
One wonders if things would have been different had the government of Tamil Nadu acted upon a public interest litigation challenging the encroachments at the Canal Bank Road.
The PIL filed by the Kasturba Nagar and Indira Nagar Residents Welfare Forum had sought the removal of encroachments on the Canal Bank Road along the Buckingham Canal.
The petitioners made it clear that the encroachments in question were not by slum dwellers. There are concrete structures that are coming up and this in turn was affecting the flow of water into the canal, the PIL also alleged.
Today this area is facing the flood and one would want to ask the question whether this would have been the case had the government acted.
The Buckingham Canal, Adyar and Cooum River act as the main drains of rain water in the city.
However, with encroachments all around, there is no place for the water to flow out and ultimately ends up on the streets of the city.
There have been differences of opinion between officials on these issues and one may recall the Madras High Court threatening to summon the chief secretary over this.