Chennai floods – nature’s fury or a man-made situation ?

MERAchennai-rainFinally rains eased in flood-hit Chennai after the recent death of 18 patients in a private hospital added to the official toll of 280 killed in the torrential disaster.

Chennai’s commercial airport is to be opened after being closed for 3 days, now enabling workers and relief supplies to be moved to help the devastated city of 6 million people. Parts of the flat coastal city remained under some 8 to 10 feet of water.

Automobile factories such as Renault, Nissan Motors, Hyundai Motors and Apollo Tyres were affected and hope to resume production immediately. BMW’s plant will stay closed until later in the week.

A number of families sought safety on the city’s Basion Bridge flyover, most of them from slums that were washed away.

Despite the efforts of the military and civilian emergency services, help has still to reach many areas. Military helicopters dropped food to residents stranded on the rooftops and the defense ministry doubled to 4000 the number of soldiers deployed to help. Authorities have so far evacuated 127,580 people who are now sheltered in relief camps and are being treated for infections to prevent an epidemic.

The severe flooding in Chennai proves India’s cities are unprepared for extreme weather events. The floods are a wake up call for India’s teeming cities that were built with the expectation that the environment would adjust itself to accommodate the needs for the city to grow.

Poor planning and corruption can be blamed for the city’s unpreparedness for the floods, and the resultant devastation that has left so many in the direst of straits.

Records show that there are over 150,000 illegal structures in Chennai and over 300 tanks, canals and lakes have disappeared.

Clearly slip shod development and unsatisfactory urban planning have led to the floods that almost swallowed up India’s fourth most populous city.