‘Many flooded areas were once farmlands’

Updated - November 04, 2017 07:26 am IST

Published - November 04, 2017 01:15 am IST

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 3/11/2017: Commissioner of Revenue Administration K. Satyagopal  at the State Emergency Operations Centre in Ezhilagam complex in Chennai on Friday. Photo: M. Vedhan.

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 3/11/2017: Commissioner of Revenue Administration K. Satyagopal at the State Emergency Operations Centre in Ezhilagam complex in Chennai on Friday. Photo: M. Vedhan.

The State Emergency Operations Centre located at Ezhilagam complex was abuzz with activity on Friday evening with senior officials coordinating with various government agencies on relief operations in various parts of the State that are rain-affected. Taking time off, Commissioner of Revenue Administration K. Satyagopal , in an interview with The Hindu , contends that the State had prepared for the monsoon much earlier and not after the rains pounded Chennai and its surroundings last Monday. Excerpts...

Which are the areas that have been severely affected by the rains and how are the relief operations proceeding in those areas?

The focus right now is on three to four locations in Kancheepuram district. Areas around Pallikaranai marsh, Chitlapakkam, Kovilambakkam and localities adjoining Aadhanur have experienced inundation and we are taking efforts to drain out water. With respect to Chennai city, a lot of areas have been cleared of water logging. There is information about some subways and a few areas where water has stagnated. We are working round-the-clock.

A Government Order on “pre-monsoon preparedness works” issued by the Public Works Department on October 30 suggests that the State government had not made preparatory works on time...

There is a bit of confusion about the G.O. After the 2015 floods, the PWD identified the gaps that led to the flooding. The government had sanctioned ₹18 crore for restoring some of the stretches on Adyar and another ₹4.5 crore for Vegavathy river. So, nearly ₹23 crore was spent in the last one-and-a-half years. This G.O. is of course an additional allocation that has been made. But, everyone thought that this was the only allocation made.

But, the works identified in the G.O. were supposed to be “pre-monsoon preparatory works” and the order was issued only after the rains commenced...

All these works that I talked about in Adyar and Vegavathy, those are pre-monsoon activities. Even though normally you call it pre-monsoon work, they also do it during the monsoon. See, when the water is flowing, you keep on having a lot of debris and a lot of choking will take place. We need to take into account that also. The point I am trying to make is this is not the only ₹8 crore that has been sanctioned by the government to restore these water bodies.

What are the biggest challenges government agencies face during relief operations?

The problem is that inundated areas are mostly agricultural lands. A portion of that has become a residential area. And because of that, you will get a road and have huge vacant sites. Since there is no channel over there, water will not flow easily. We are trying to address all challenges.

And the solutions for those challenges could be...

Wherever you have these housing areas coming up, probably we need to have a look at going for channels, diversion channels, cut and cover road system. We are trying to look at all these things.

What are the issues you face after making such preparations?

Sometimes, the (rain) projections and predictions don’t bear out. If everything goes as is predicted, it will be good... Last year for example, the forecast was normal rainfall during northeast monsoon. But, we got a 62% deficit and we were pushed into one of the most severe droughts in the recent history of Tamil Nadu.

So, rainfall predictions are not dependable?

We are not saying they are not dependable. There will be variations. Forecasts provide solid guidance for us to be prepared. Once the cyclonic system forms, only after a particular time frame you can forecast with pinpoint accuracy.

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