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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 15, november 16-30, 2009
Living with waterlogging
(By A Special Correspondent)

It has just been one week of monsoon rain and we have a good four to six weeks of rainfall still left. Yet the infrastructure of the city has already thrown up its hands. In that one week, all that we have witnessed have been clogged drains, overflowing manholes, traffic hold-ups and flooding in low-lying areas. Once again the inability of the authorities to plan for such eventualities has been exposed. A positive side has been the marginally better situation in the central parts of the city. The suburbs and the usually much neglected areas, such as those in North Chennai, have, however, borne the brunt of the rains.

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost comes the condition of the principal waterways of the city, the Cooum, the Adyar, the Buckingham Canal, the Otteri Nullah and the Mambalam Canal. All of these are meant to be stormwater drains that can carry surface water as fast as possible to the sea. Unfortunately, the continued practice of sewers being connected to stormwater drains, which in turn connect to these waterways, has resulted in chaos. Undisposed plastic and other garbage cause the blocking of these storm­water channels resulting in water collecting on the surface and not reaching the waterways. The rivers and canals have also to be desilted regularly. On paper, this is supposed to be done at least once a year. However, it is not known how often this is done in reality. Also, the continuous mushrooming of slums on the banks of the rivers has resulted in the prevention of draining off of surface water.

The continued construction of structures such as the MRTS and flyovers alongside rivers has altered the surface topography a good deal. Not much attention has been paid to sloping the land in these construction areas towards the waterways and in a flat city such as Chennai, even a small variation in gradient can cause chaos. This is exactly what has happened near such constructions. A lot of the earlier open spaces, like lakes and marshlands, have also been swallowed up by constructions with impermeable surfaces, resulting in water collecting in the surrounding areas. Most of the new suburbs have no master plan to speak of when it comes to draining out surface water. In many cases, houses have been built in the dry beds of lakes that invariably fill up during the rains. These water bodies are then wilfully drained by anti-socials who have taken possession of the land by the breaching of the bunds, thereby causing untold suffering to neighbouring areas.

It is high time the Government came up with a serious plan with stringent regulations with regard to drainage and waterways. The recommendations have to be of a permanent nature, and no ad-hoc solution will do. Else, such disasters as have happened recently will continue to recur every year.

It should be noted that while the Government is very active in proposing the beautification of river banks and bridges, very little has taken place by way of actually cleaning up the rivers themselves. A recent news item has it that even the much-touted Cooum clean-up is hamstrung due to want of funds. The end result will be, as always, more waterlogging.


In this issue

It’s not cricket!
Living with waterlogging
People’s Park...
The Madras of 1878-79...
Ajay Rau in Ocean Race...
Historic Residences...
Other stories

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