Making Chennai brave the weather Editor

The flat terrain of Chennai demands that we find efficient ways to tackle the rainy season and the flood it brings with it. The city is not Monsoon ready though.

Come monsoon, and the city of Chennai is seen grappling with various problems – the most glaring one among them being infrastructure that, at times, cannot handle even short spells of rain. The consequences of these issues include stagnant water and flooded houses that lead to other problems like water borne diseases or sanitation issues.

While the city receives rainfall every now and then, the crucial question remains if the city is prepared for the rainfall. Kiran Rajashekariah, an expert in urban policy and planning, explains “This year the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted normal rainfall, which means there will be a little more than average amount of rainfall. The cities, including Chennai, need to prepare for the monsoon. The problem is our arrangements (solutions) are on ad-hoc basis. We come up with temporary solutions to resolve the problems. This should not be the case.”

Nalas to the rescue

The problem lies not in excess rains or for that matter even average rains. The lack of sound drainage system is one of the problems that leads to the flooding of roads. But that is not all. Rajashekariah elaborates: “Chennai is a city that is on a lower elevation, a few feet above sea level. So, the chances of flooding are higher. Restoring natural drains, often referred to as nalas, should be the foremost priority, which will be a long-term solution. Wetlands, in the natural topography, act as a sponge which absorb and store water. Due to rapid urbanisation and the resulting change of land use, they have been encroached upon, and destroyed. Also, roads are designed in such a way that the water will not percolate into the ground. All that needs to change.”

The city on the other hand is trying to cope up with the rainy season by making a few improvements.

He strongly insists that effective maintenance of the four major waterways, 30 canals that run through the city, and the numerous temple ponds, is imperative for the safety of the city.

The ISWD project is one of the ambitious plans of the government but there are reports that indicate it could be delayed by another few months.

According to Shaju Thomas, Director, Office Services (Chennai) at Colliers International India, “This means that the city may not actually be ready to face what the northeast showers could bring about. While a lot of plans are being thought about, including construction of missing storm water drain links, desilting tank beds and the like; one is yet to see action on ground. Apart from the government, there are a lot of things the common man should ensure as well,” he says and adds, “Free flowing drains get choked with garbage that gets dumped irresponsibly. There are many cases of unfinished storm water drains ending up as garbage dumpyards and one that stands out is on the Velachery-Taramani bypass road, where thanks to increased retail activity and disregard for the ecosystem, citizens of the city continue to dump just about anything. The area has always been known to be low-lying, which requires to be treated with extreme care.”

A Shankar, Coo, Strategic Consulting (India And Sri Lanka), JLL India, Says, A detailed project report had been prepared in 2016, for Kosasthalaiyaru, Cooum, Adyar and Kovalam basin for a length of 1069 kilometres at a total cost of Rs 4034.30 crore

This forms part of activities planned under Phase 1 of the Integrated Storm Water Drain (ISWD) project for improvement of the basins.

Improvement activities under this project and projects such as the Chennai Mega City Development Mission, covering other extended areas and the core city must be expedited.

Considering that the city is prone to floods and cyclones attributed to rapid development, it is vital that the initiatives to prevent these calamities, be progressive and planned to keep up with the pace of developmental activities.

source Ranjitha G, Times Property, The Times of India, Chennai