I wonder why Chennai suffers from floods and drought? It’s bad infrastructure, stupid

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No one denies the fact that weather conditions have become erratic all over the world due to climate change. But people add in the same breath that the floods or drought in Chennai are largely man-made.

On December 30, Chennai, like any other metro, was preparing to usher in the New Year when it encountered a nasty surprise: Heavy rains caught the city and many parts of the state capital unawares. witnessed flash floods. Traffic was unbalanced and three people, including a 14-year-old boy, were electrocuted.

A day later, Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote a letter to Union Interior Minister Amit Shah asking for financial assistance to install new early warning weather radars. The weather service was also taken by surprise and they sheepishly agreed that they had not predicted the event as the atmospheric build-up along the Chennai coast was sudden and unexpected.

Earlier in November, the state saw widespread rains as a cyclonic storm along the coast devastated growing crops, killing ordinary people. Flood waters in Chennai entered homes and the city literally floated for several days. In some areas, people had to hire boats to get out of their homes.

The city experienced similar scenes in 2015 when floodwaters entered many homes. Even the wealthy and famous of the city were rescued by disaster management volunteers. Compare that with Chennai in 2019, when the city faced an unprecedented shortage of drinking water. It almost seemed like Chennai would soon meet their own version of “Day Zero” where they wouldn’t have a single drop of water left to drink!

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What are the reasons why the State and especially its capital oscillate wildly between floods and water scarcity? While no one denies the fact that the weather has become erratic around the world due to climate change, people in the same breath add that the floods or drought in Chennai are largely man-made.

While Tamil Nadu has been ahead of other states in terms of social infrastructure and enjoys good social indicators, some comparable to those of Western democracies, it certainly lacks urban infrastructure. Compared to many other metros like Delhi, Mumbai or Pune, the city lacks urban amenities.

The city is definitely in need of an upgrade to its drainage system. Half of Chennai does not have storm drains. Since it is a historic city, it has many monuments and heritage buildings. The challenge for the municipal administration is to find a balance between the past and the present by creating modern infrastructures while preserving the old. The city has not grown vertically compared to many other metros as urban transport needs improvement.

There are suggestions that the FSI area along the metro route should be increased so that the city grows vertically. Its civic facilities need a drastic change. For example, some parts of the city still do not have clean drinking water. Even in areas where water is available from the tap, people still prefer to buy water in plastic cans as they don’t seem to trust the municipal supply.

Read also : Why Thursday’s rain in Chennai slipped past IMD, meteorologists

The city has not yet been supplied with domestic gas by pipelines. The city’s zoning laws certainly need an upgrade. In many areas, local businesses and residential housing coexist. City traffic is slow and because the roads are narrow there are many one-way routes. All this despite the fact that the city’s population growth is steady compared to other metros.

There can be many reasons why urban infrastructure has not improved. One could be corruption. The politician-official bond in the state should be probed to determine what happens to plans that are drawn on paper but barely implemented. The bureaucracy lacks imagination and requires political push. Urban observers say there is a lack of coordination between the different administrative units in the city. The city’s urban organizations or corporations suffered for several years because they had no elected officials to lead them.

There is a certain political apathy when it comes to urban issues. The two Dravidian parties barely focused on the issue, although it must be agreed that the DMK has been better than the AIADMK. In 2001, when Jayalalithaa was elected chief minister, she ordered an investigation into various airlifts built by the previous DMK administration, blocking work in several places.

When DMK returned to power, he ensured that some of these projects were completed. Between 2011 and 2021, when AIADMK was in power, apparently few urban infrastructure projects were launched. The backlog has increased the pressure on the city. Chief Minister MK Stalin has promised people that the city will be better prepared for next year’s rains, but it is a tall order as it must start with capacity building efforts first. .

Observers believe it may take decades for the city to repair its infrastructure, as the problem is deep and widespread. Indeed, many marshes, water bodies and traditional lakes have been invaded by the construction mafia. Local bodies have sanctioned many buildings and institutions in low lying areas that were once natural water bodies.

Read also: TN sets ambitious target for 2030 as key sectors perform well in 2021

The city’s greenery has not improved, and the rampant expansion within the city has blocked the pathways for natural water to enter the ground as it spills out. The city simply does not have the capacity to hold water when it rains. Most of the rainwater is discharged into the sea. As a result, natural aquifers dry up and this causes enormous distress in years of weak monsoons. For example, during drinking water shortages, many farmers switched to selling water. They installed deep wells in their fields and the water thus pumped was transported to the townspeople using tankers. This resulted in a further drop in the water table.

Tamil Nadu receives the northeast monsoon that hits its coast from November to December, when most parts of India experience winter. Indeed, the state receives very little rain during the main northwest monsoon from June to August, the mainstay of the Indian monsoon system. It receives rains during the return of the monsoon in the second half of the year.

Chennai needs to plan its water management and flood control. Unless the political class takes the issue seriously, the city will continue to be in distress, witnessing a cycle of light rains to heavy rains.


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