Chandramohan, secretary of Arappor Iyakkam, one of the panellists for a discussion revolving around the city’s flood preparedness, said Chennai is far from being prepared. “There is a high public interest in reclaiming our water bodies. Many people were interested in tackling encroachments, which have destroyed our lakes and ponds. For instance, in Villivakkam, the 300-acre lake has been reduced to a lagoon of 60 acres. This too has not been spared as metro rail construction debris is being dumped here. This was the reason why SIDCO Nagar was severely flooded last year.
Government and private sector are the biggest encroachers — not the slum dwellers. People feel helpless about the situation and want to know what they can do to change it. Unless we, as a society, take an initiative, nothing will happen. The officials only take cosmetic measures. Chennai is nowhere close to being prepared for another flood,” said the activist.
Dr Jayshree Vencatesan, trustee of Care Earth Trust, said the floods have instilled a fear in people. “Chennai has always been exposed to floods, which have occurred regularly. But last time time, it was the rich and mighty too who experienced it, which garnered attention. We need an informed and robust approach backed by science to flood proof the city. The oneshoe-fits-all policy should not be applied to our water bodies and wetlands. For example, flood-proofing Adyar won’t solve the problem of flooding in other parts of Chennai. We need a comprehensive plan, which may include removing encroachments, greening initiatives and abandoning certain favoured projects,” said the expert.
Indumathi Nambi, head of the Environment and Water Resources Division in the Department of Civil Engineering at IIT Madras, said there was a sense of urgency now. “We have been studying the connectivity between the lakes and marshland in south Chennai. After the floods, more people have started talking about it. Now, with haphazard development, 75 per cent of our marshland is lost and we have also lost connectivity between lakes. We need to immediately go about restoring this connectivity to prevent future disasters,” said the academician.