Irked Chennai residents explore ways to avoid floods

Residents said many of the affected families are frustrated and are even discussing selling their property and permanently moving out from areas like S Kolathur and Korattur.
Two women seen wading through the water in a flooded street.
Two women seen wading through the water in a flooded street.

CHENNAI: On Sunday, residents’ welfare associations in several parts of Chennai got together for the first time since the floods, armed with maps of waterbodies in their localities, and started chalking out problem areas. Residents said many of the affected families are frustrated and are even discussing selling their property and permanently moving out from areas like S Kolathur and Korattur.

In Sunnambu Kolathur Ward 3, close to 50 residents gathered for a ‘post-flood’ meeting. They had a hand-drawn map of local waterbodies with linking canals to identify what could have caused the flooding. At the meeting’s end, they decided the top priority in the next weeks will be to get officials to fill the gaps in the retaining wall built by the Water Resources Department.

Some families ready to give up homes, others seek permanent fix

In 2020, the WRD undertook the project of building the 1.7km-long and 4m-wide retaining wall in a bid to protect the surrounding area of Kagithapuram in Sunnambu Kolathur from flooding. “The retaining wall, has gaps in many places, which defeats the entire purpose of the Rs 16-crore project, because authorities were scared it may damage the houses nearby.

Ironically, the families nearby said in the meeting today that they were willing to give up their houses for a nominal price and move out permanently,” said J Sankar, a resident. “The families here are tired of dealing with flooding every year and living in fear.

They have had to deal with damages amounting to `1 lakh. Those who had recently rented out houses here were not prepared for the flooding and lost even more,” he added. Ammaiyappan M of TNHB Colony in Korattur and vice president of Ward 84 Makkal Sabai said there was at least five feet of water on their streets, higher than the levels during the 2015 floods.

“My family and I are considering selling our house and move to places that are relatively better. We have shortlisted Ambattur and Mogappair,” he said. In Velachery, the AGS colony residents welfare association, another area that was severely impacted by floods, met for a discussion on how to prevent floods in the area. “The stormwater drains are meant for rains alone and cannot carry surplus water from Velachery and Adambakkam lakes,” said Geetha Ganesh, secretary of the AGS RWA.

The residents have come up with 11 suggestions that they believe could improve the draining time of water, that include desilting and widening of the Veerangal Odai. Vijay, a resident of Velachery, said many of these suggestions came up after the 2015 floods, but most of them have not been taken seriously.

“Before Covid-19, residents associations would themselves clean up the lakes and other waterbodies in their area. The trend had died down after 2020. Maybe it’s time to take matters into our own hands again without relying on government interventions to be carried out at their own pace,” he said.

D Neelakandan, the president of Federation of Madhavaram RWA, has been compiling a list of damage to both public and private property in the area in order to provide a perspective of the losses and plans to carry it with him for his meetings with government officials that he is trying to schedule in the coming week. “We have decided to meet as many officials as we can in the coming week to bring to their attention what could have caused the floods in our area and discuss what could be done to prevent it,” he said.

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