CHENNAI: The devastation caused by the December last deluge was also partly due to the change in land use plans by Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, according to water management expert Dr Christoph Woiwode, visiting professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
Experts believe that the redesignation of large tracks of land in the city, identified as low-lying in Chennai’s First Master-plan, as residential areas in the Second Master-plan was a major cause for floods. “You build structures in the drainage system of the city, which is in low lying areas, and the flow of water gets blocked resulting in stagnation,” he explained.
Woiwode is with the Indo-German Centre of Sustainability and is working on a project along with Professor Chella Rajan from the department of Humanities and Science in IIT Madras, funded by the Department of Science and Technology. The study is focussing on Sriperumbudur and Tambaram taluks, area characterised as low-lying Adyar river basin, the professor said. According to the study, Special Economic Zones designated by SIPCOT in Sriperumbudur had changed land use significantly. It has also found that capacity building regarding flood disaster risk management awareness in urban local bodies is hindered by the “regulatory-fuzziness” in peri-urban Chennai, and authorities do not enforce their responsibilities, he said. It was also found that hazard preparation in peri-urban Chennai is still based on Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for responding to natural disasters.
However, the SOP does not cover long-term oriented mitigation measures. While blaming the failure to form State Disaster Management Policy though Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management authority was set up in 2008, he was also critical of the outdated Chennai Disaster Management Plan. “The city’s master-plan also makes only fleeting remarks on flood risk management. There is a need to prevent filling agricultural land in low lying areas in peri-urban Chennai, and integrate water retention ponds into urban design,” he said.