Chennai Floods: 'We've lost all our canals, rivers, and streams'

"It's a fact that as a result of climate change we cannot avoid heavy rains anymore. The problem however is that we have destroyed our natural drainage systems," a climate activist pointed out.

Published: 13th November 2021 02:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th November 2021 03:51 PM   |  A+A-

Chennai rains

A flooded road at Teynampet in Chennai. (Photo | R Satish Babu, EPS)

By Online Desk

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Revenue Minister KKSSR Ramachandran on Friday compared the flood situation in the state this season to the devastating floods of 2015 to highlight how the present government headed by MK Stalin had ensured fewer rain-related fatalities and damages.

According to the minister, between October 1 and November 12 this year, Tamil Nadu received 416.5 mm of rainfall, 56 percent above the normal rainfall of 266.3 mm. He went on to compare the rain-related deaths of 2015, which was 174, to the present 18. 

ALSO READ | What’s causing extreme weather in Tamil Nadu?

However, in 2015, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Chennai, Thiruvallur, and Kancheepuram districts received a rainfall of 22 cm, 23 cm, and 24 cm respectively on a single day on November 15. Tambaram received  494.2 mm, Chembarambakkam in Thiruvallur district received 475.0 mm and Kattukuppam in Kancheepuram district received 429 mm of rainfall on the same day. This shows that the rainfall received by Tambaram, Chembarambakkam, and Kattukuppam on a single day was much higher than the 416.5 mm rainfall received by the whole of Tamil Nadu this season.

Further, in 2015, the highest rainfall was recorded in the period between December 1 and 5. In the five days, Chennai recorded 399.0 mm rainfall while Kancheepuram recorded 467.2 (which again is higher than the 416.5 mm rainfall recorded this season). Similarly, Tiruvallur recorded 335.2 mm, Cuddalore 274.8 mm, Nagapattinam 263.1 mm, and Villupuram 240.0 mm rainfall.

ALSO READ | Loads of lessons from latest round of Chennai flooding

Ramachandran pointed out that the overflowing of water has been avoided this season due to the regulated release of water from water resources around Chennai. This was indeed a prudent move when we recall the major devastation caused by the delay in 2015 in releasing water from Chembarambakkam lake. 

Against this backdrop, G Sundarrajan, climate activist and environmentalist told The New Indian Express that 2015 should have been a phenomenal learning experience for the state. Unfortunately, it didn't prove to be so. The only difference this time is that the Stalin-led government responded immediately to the pleas of the people unlike what happened in 2015, he said.

"It's a fact that as a result of climate change we cannot avoid heavy rains anymore. The problem however is that we have destroyed our natural drainage systems. We've lost all our canals, rivers, and streams. Illegal constructions and encroachments have ensured that our major flood carriers Ennore creek and Pallikaranai marsh are choked. Instead of addressing these issues, constructing an unscientific stormwater drainage system is not going to solve the flooding problem," Sundarrajan pointed out.

ALSO READ | Chennai yet to learn lessons from 2015 floods?

The discussion about stormwater drains gains importance because in July this year Stalin had called upon the administrative machinery to prepare a permanent scheme to remove encroachments and strengthen river banks to prevent floods in Chennai. The Chennai Flood Management Committee to be set up, Stalin had said, will comprise experts in environment, urban planning, disaster management, to devise flood control methods. But he noted that the committee would design stormwater drains to reduce the impact of floods.

Stalin had blamed the previous AIADMK government's inaction and corruption for waterlogging in the city and announced the setting up of a probe panel to investigate irregularities in spending crores of rupees allocated by the Centre for smart city projects.

ALSO READ | No rains, but Chennai streets still resemble canals

On Friday, minister Ramachandran admitted that during the current rains, the government has learned certain lessons, and in the next rains steps would be taken to prevent these problems.  For example, main roads have no water stagnation now. But the interior areas have water stagnation. Such places would be identified and this problem would be fixed soon, he said.

To deliver on this assurance, the Stalin government will hopefully ensure that the city has well-thought-out measures in place and not stop-gap, quick-fix solutions.


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