CHENNAI: Deepak Shastri won’t forget the December 1 rains that crippled Chennai airport, with thousands of passengers being stranded as the premises and runway was flooded.
“My house was only 1.5 km away and I was not able to access it for the next 48 hours,” says the Chennai Airport Authority India director. Thousands of international and domestic passengers were stranded when the airport was flooded and its operations was put off for five days.
But Shastri, an ex-serviceman, has more pride than regret. “Nowhere in the world do you see airports battered due to natural disaster able to bounce back like this. But we did it in the next five days,” he says.
But the natural disaster has taught a few lessons to Airport Authority of India in managing such disasters.
“We are now building stronger walls so that the water does not enter the airport premises again,” he says. During the rains, water seeped into the airport after 300 metres of walls collapsed, he says.
“We have also mapped the entire airport and found the low lying areas,” adds
Shastri. “We are working to raise the platform and have also identified areas where we can relocate equipment, says the AAI director. “These are the areas which ware minimally affected by the floods,” he says.
But then the biggest issue is the encroachment of water bodies. Shastri doesn’t buy the argument that the floods were caused by the release of excess water from Chembarambakkam. “It was due to the encroachment of water bodies. The water has to flow through the Adyar river. The issue is that it is shrunk due to encroachment,” he says.
“We have asked the state to clear the river of encroachments. Dredging of the river should be taken up on priority,” says Shastri, who blames the Chennai Metro. “The GST drainage was closed as Metro rail has erected a column and all the water from outside entered our premises,” he points out.
Runway not an Obstruction
Chennai AAI director Deepak Shastri has defended the airport’s runway on the Adyar river, saying it is not causing any obstruction to the river’s flow. “Clearance was given by safety experts,” he says, asking how the runway could be any different from Adyar bridge.