Friday, 4 December 2015

Chennai floods man made

It was just three days ago, when we said "Be like water, always find a way." But what happens when mankind blocks the way of water? Water rises and rises to teach mankind a lesson! This is precisely what happened in Chennai.
Chennai- like most cities in India, has rivers, river banks with flood plains, number of lakes and ponds which together form a system of flood balancing. This is nature's own creation over centuries and collectively called 'water bodies'. Should a river overflow or an area receive excessive rain water, water will fill the river bank, flood plains and water bodies and normal life will not be disturbed. But what happens when lakes, ponds and river banks are encroached upon to build multistoryed complexes? The overflowing river has no space to breathe and excess water enters the roads and colonies and remains there. More rain means more flooding with no relief for the excess water to drain off. 
Chennai floods in first week of December 2015 are a testimony to faulty urban planning and blatant misuse of water bodies for the construction of buildings over many years.
Water bodies which act as a 'sponge' not only help in flood control but also recharge the ground water. Readers may browse the following stories which give further details of this logic.

Swati Thiyagarajan Environment Editor's story on NDTV

Disappearing Lakes by Nidhi Jamwal in Deccan Herald 

 Threats on urban lakes across India- A study by CSE

Sadly, this story is not limited only to Chennai. Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad floods are waiting to happen! Floods and disaster in Jaipur in 1986 have not taught us a lesson even after 30 years.  Destruction  of water bodies continues unabated. A city wise summary of water bodies which have been lost is given below:

No. of water bodies in 1960s
Surviving No. of water bodies

Previously we had highlighted the encroachment of Kolleru Lake in Andhra Pradesh which is the flood balancing system between Godavari and Krishna rivers. The lake has lost more than 70% of its water body. You can read the full story on Kolleru lake here.

Chennai floods have given all Indians a wake-up call. Let us not blame it on global warming and climate change. This disaster and loss of hundreds of lives is man-made as we have shown above. Hope the governments in each state wake up and prevent further destruction of water bodies.

We close with Swati Thiyagarajan's words "We have to learn that economy will not work without a strong foundation of ecology".

Thanks for browsing.
  Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 4th Dec 2015

PS: As Ghumakkad was writing this story, his son and family in Chennai had to be evacuated by boat to a safer place. They went without power, water, cell phone and internet for 4 days with their cars submerged in flood water. Such was the devastation in Chennai.