How old Chennai survived fury of monsoon floods

The multi-storeyed blocks of tenements under construction in the Mambalam Tank Bund Scheme. Picture dated 12/08/1971. -The Hindu Archives  

On the day when Chennai was inundated, there was also waist deep and knee deep water in many parts including Besant Road linking Triplicane and Royapettah area.

While other areas continued to suffer from water-logging for more than a day, the water drained in parts of old Chennai quickly. Even the narrow Zam Bazzar with garbage on either side of the road was motorable within hours. The situation was invariably uniform in Mylapore, Mandaveli and Alwarpet, though in some streets water stagnated for a longer period.

“This is the advantage with settlements in old Madras. They were created on natham and by definition is an elevated area. If water has entered house in these areas it is because the roads and streets are above the entrance of houses and the blame can be placed at the doors of authorities who had laid the roads without any planning,” said S. Janakarajan of the Madras Institute of Development Studies.

The Chennaities were shocked when a safe area like Mamablam and its neighbourhoods were heavily flooded and causing enormous damage to its residents. “We survived, but lost everything and have to buy everything from electronic goods to clothes,” said Muralidharan, a native of Ashok Nagar.

Actually, today’s T.Nagar and areas around Mambalam were once lakes and Royapettah was full of beautiful gardens and the old Madras with fertile land and waterbodies have been captured by freedom fighter and trade union leader Thiru. Vi. Kalyanasundaram in his memoir.

“He used to walk from Ganapathy Mudali Street near the Music Academy, where he had resided, through Kasturi Ranga Road up to Mylapore Lake. The South Boag Road and Ellaiamman temples are actually bunds of the lake which was filled to create a settlement in 1925 by the government led by the Justice Party to meet the housing requirement. Mambalam Lake was also converted into a settlement,” said Dravidian scholar K. Thirunavukkarasu.

Thiru.Vi.Ka had regretted that Royapettah had lost its charm and beauty after emergence of small settlement in the wake creation of T.Nagar on Mylapore Lake.

“Even today there are 142 lakes in the Chennai Metropolitan Area. The word thangal in Ekkatuthangal means it is a waterbody. We filled them. Let us wake up to the reality and if we maintain the existing waterbodies properly, we can save a lot of water,” said Mr. Janakarajan.

Ma. Subramaniam, former Mayor of Chennai, said many places in old Chennai escaped flooding because of the presence of proper drainage facilities.

“During the DMK rule, we renovated and desilted stormwater drains and extended the facility to new areas. However, desilting has not been carried out now despite request from councillors on the ground,” he alleged.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 10:50:31 AM |

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