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When Chennai became Venice

Waking up on a mid-November morning,  I saw water flowing all around and boats used for transportation; no it is not Venice, but good old Chennai that was flooded by the normal monsoon rains that brings much relief after the scorching summer.

Though the Corporation claims to undertake storm water drainage works, the normal monsoon rains tear apart the city. The Corporation has spent more than Rs 5000 crore during the last ten years to repair the storm water drains. Rs 350 crore has been allotted for the year for the same, but the impact of these investments is poor.

At the burst of the clouds, Chennai got flooded leaving several areas marooned, some areas islanded and several inhabitable. With power shut off for safety reasons, living in Chennai was more like living amidst the Amazon. Lakes and reservoirs were overflowing and had to be opened to prevent breaching, and this left several low-lying areas flooded. Velachery, Madipakkam and Mudichur were among the affected areas where boats were sent to rescue. Several parts of the state were also severely affected which damaged both crops and lives.

Though the reservoirs are full, the sad part is that around 41 tmc ft of rain water had just drained into the sea. Tamil Nadu has no perennial rivers and is always in water wars with its neighbours. If measures were taken to store this excess water, there could be some comfort during summer. The rain had also brought to light the several waterbodies that were converted to residential areas. Studies show at least 300 water bodies have been converted. Experts suggest redesigning channels and drains and to build a grid of storm water pipe leading to the Buckingham Canal and Cooum river as a long term solution.

This monsoon also witnessed the strength of social media. A meme in Facebook of Ola providing boat service triggered the company to hire boats and join in the rescue measure. Several Facebook pages were set up to source relief materials and to distribute these in affected areas. The Police also deserve credit for taking extensive measures to restore order. The city always cries for water during summer but ends up wasting the much-needed resource during monsoon. It is time to find a solution.

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