Chennai is flood-prone due to poor urban planning: Experts

Updated - November 09, 2021 01:42 am IST

Published - October 09, 2016 12:00 am IST - CHENNAI:

‘Lack of a database on disasters, risk reduction and mitigation policies are major limitations’.

The city is increasingly vulnerable to flooding not because of rainfall but due to poor urban planning. The community must be prepared to face adverse situations irrespective of weather forecasts.

These were the key aspects that emerged from a seminar on ‘Is Chennai prepared for the monsoon?’ organised at C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre on Saturday.

Lack of a database on disasters, risk reduction and mitigation policies are the major limitations in building a resilient city.

“We have systematically destroyed traditional drainage systems and waterbodies with unplanned, mindless urban expansion. There needs to be a benchmark based on the worst floods in 100 or 300 years to plan a city,” said Prof. S. Janakarajan, visiting fellow, Madras Institute of Development Studies.

In his presentation on the status of Chennai’s water drainage system, Mr. Janakarajan said that every place must have a disaster management centre. “However, we do not have disaster risk reduction strategies or vulnerability analysis in place. We have not documented lessons learnt from the past. There is no disaster-related database be it on human and property loss or how long it takes for an individual to recover from disaster,” said Mr. Janakarajan.

Weather unit

Pointing out that understanding Chennai’s natural drainage system and rainfall pattern was essential to mitigate floods, he said the State must have a weather unit manned by climatologists along with the meteorological department.

Highlighting the destruction of Pallikaranai marshland and waterbodies, he said “it was human intervention that caused floods. We must map ecological hotspots and comprehensively survey waterbodies and waterways and plan flood mitigation measures.”

Disaster preparedness must be taught at a young age, according to S.R. Ramanan, former director, Area Cyclone Warning Centre, Regional Meteorological Centre, Chennai. “We must teach our children about natural disasters and expect the unexpected of nature,” he said. Elaborating on the complex, volatile nature of northeast monsoon and various global weather parameters that influence it, he said there were many weather agencies that provided weather forecasts.

“Forecasts may differ. But we must be prepared for the season be it summer or monsoon irrespective of the predictions to prevent loss. People’s mindset need to change. We must take the right decisions based on the warnings given,” Mr. Ramanan said. The meteorological department’s short and medium forecast are more accurate now, he added.

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