ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ignore Hydrology at Your Peril

Chennai floods show the vulnerabilities that arise from the neglect of urban planning.

In the second week of November, flood-marooned people in Chennai had an unlikely Good Samaritan. The cab service provider, Ola. As the city struggled to come to terms with its highest rainfall in 10 years, the cab company pressed in boats from an aquatic adventure outfit and secured the services of professional rowers and fishworkers to ferry those stranded in waist-deep—sometimes even chest-deep—floodwaters. Some boats also supplied food and water free of cost.

The sight may have taken old residents of the city to far less calamitous times when boats plied on the Adyar River. It may have evoked memories of the river’s channels—and other waterbodies. Ironically, Chennai has lost most—if not all—of the waterbodies of old. Media reports quoting the National Institute of Disaster Management pointed out that Chennai had about 650 waterbodies, including lakes, ponds and storage tanks till about two decades ago; today it has less than 30. In the recent floods, the city paid a heavy price for this loss.

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