Chennai Rains: Why Do Our Cities Keep Drowning?

A recurring theme when  instances of flooding take place, is to refer to them as “natural” disasters, when in reality they are linked to dismal governance of water-systems in our cities, lakebed and wetland encroachment and poor disaster preparedness.

Rain has been unleashing havoc, almost incessantly, in Chennai since October 30 2017.
In 2015, too, the city faced unprecedented flooding leading to hundreds of casualties. A series of articles examining the 2015 Chennai Floods take these factors into account:

  • Madonna Thomas and Satyarupa Shekhar write that the 2015 floods in Chennai are a fallout of real estate riding roughshod over the city's waterbodies. Facilitated by an administration that tweaked and modified building rules and urban plans, the real estate boom has consumed the city's lakes, ponds, tanks and large marshlands.


  • What is the impact of court verdicts on Chennai’s canals, tanks and related wetlands? 
    R Seenivasan discusses three interlinked cases surrounding Buckingham Canal area and argues that the verdicts in these cases allowed the administration to destroy sophisticated water systems. The paper also argues that these waterbodies could have mitigated, if not prevented, the November–December 2015 floods in Chennai.


  • J Amalorpavanathan, M Ramakumar, and S Sivasubramanian comment on how serious epidemics after the December 2015 floods in Chennai were averted by prompt preventive action initiated by the government which was supported by NGOs and citizen groups. This article highlights areas for improvement and initiates a dialogue around the theme of disaster preparedness and better coordinated relief efforts.

Image Credit: Indian Air Force [Attribution or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

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