Reactive, proactive response to rain
November is being seen as a period that might present a litmus test to the Tamil Nadu government, vis-a-vis rain preparedness.
Over the course of this week, Chennai was waterlogged in many parts as the northeastern monsoon gathered momentum and pounded the city with sharp showers.
The spells of rain brought around 10-13 cm of rain in the city and its suburbs by Wednesday, but thankfully, our worst fears were not realised.
The key concern was whether the stormwater drains that are being constructed or repaired will be able to shield the citizens from the onslaught of the monsoons.
As many as 50 regions had experienced waterlogging and two underpasses had been inundated.
This might be an improvement over last year’s figures from the same period when 167 locations were reported to have been waterlogged at the end of the first day of the rains. Encouragingly, the problem of water stagnation was resolved in under two hours in most areas, a pointer to the functionality offered by the new and improved 157-km long stormwater drains. Complaints regarding inundation were received from 138 locations of which 12 regions had waterlogging in excess of two feet on Tuesday.
What worked in the administration’s favour is that many regions that were known to be flood prone in the past have weathered the onslaught of the rain quite well. Residents in Kannamapettai, North Usman Road, AGS Colony in Velachery were relieved that for once they didn’t have to deal with the pain of knee-deep inundation. But, these small victories were offset by flooding reported in areas such as GP Road off Anna Salai, Taramani, Mambalam, KK Nagar, Ashok Nagar. Areas in the flood prone north Chennai, such as Pulianthope, Manali and Vyasarpadi experienced inundation, and the deaths of two individuals in rain-related accidents.
We are not out of the woods yet. The Fire and Rescue Services personnel said 196 places in Chennai and its suburbs are deemed to be flood-prone. Tambaram, Mudichur and Velachery have been identified among areas prone to inundation. As per Chennai’s flood map from the year before, areas including Thiru-vi-ka Nagar, Kodambakkam, Adyar, Pallikaranai, Sholinganallur were prone to flooding during the monsoon season. Large scale inundation was also forecast in areas such as Alandur, Valasaravakkam and Perungudi.
The Chennai Corporation deserves plaudits for the speed at which the stormwater drain works have been completed in a majority of regions that were inundated in 2021, with 80% of the work being completed in many parts. But, there are concerns that the progress of storm water drain works is just about 30% in some regions that were flooded last year, such as Semmencherry, 50% near Manali and peripheral regions, and 50% in Mangalapuram in Madhavaram.
It might be premature to deliver a verdict on Chennai’s monsoon preparedness on the basis of a week’s spells of rain. Also, these recent showers indicate the beginning of the season and did not involve any low pressure zones or depressions in the Bay of Bengal which evolved into cyclones or systems, which could create a whole lot of challenges for Chennai. The administration’s response so far has been competent, but the real hurdle could emerge over the next few days as the monsoon kicks into top gear. How the drains hold up in the face of a full-fledged season might be indicative of how efficiently our tax money has been used.