In 2015, Kumaran used his paddle board to rescue those stranded in these localities. But this time, the geologist, who works in New Delhi, heard about the city’s suburban areas flooding and rushed home to survey the situation. “I wanted to see for myself what the reality is.
On November 4, at around 10.30 am, I took my paddle board and went to Madipakkam, especially the western suburbs. In some areas, there was 2-3ft of water. Initially, the water looked clear and stagnant, but as I ventured further, I realised that the water was flowing in strong currents,” he said, adding that the fin-like fittings on the paddle board helped him navigate the waters.
Kumaran also visited Chitalapakkam and Medavakkam, to see the extent to which waterbody encroachments have resulted in flooding. “In many areas where I paddled, the flooding was due to encroachment on the waterbody, especially the Pallikaranai marshland, which is important to drain the water from the surrounding suburban areas.
Pallikaranai is like a sponge, but now encroachments have obstructed the water flow to the sea,” said the paddler, who has been working to create a first-responder system in these suburban localities. “In many nooks, the traditional boats cannot enter. Here, we can use a paddle board for rescues,” he pointed out, recalling his 2015 experience. Explaining his understanding of the situation, Kumaran added, “The situation will not improve and how much of this vast stretch can be connected by a drainage system? The flooding has resulted from poor urban planning – in a small piece of land, buildings are crammed. There should be a gradient survey conducted and encroachments removed. In addition, many of the suburban areas do not have a proper drainage system, due to which sewage often mixes with rainwater.”
Earlier, Kumaran had recorded the Gangetic dolphins (Platanista gangetica) by stand up paddleboarding. He was the first in the world to stand up paddle a distance of 2,700 kilometres along the descent of the River Ganges in 101 days, between October 2016 and January 2017. “A total of 900 dolphins were spotted during this expedition. The aim of the adventure was to also use this sport to campaign for cleaner and safer rivers and also raising awareness against single use plastic (SUP). Most of our pollution will reduce if we ban single use (disposable) plastics,” he said.