The severe flooding in Chennai caused by torrential rains is a result of climate change and should be an eye opener for city planners, experts here have warned.
Some experts have opined that Chennai being one of the outsourcing hub of India and a major destination of foreign investment, the current disastrous situation could also affect the national economy.
“Chennai has seen 17 days straight of rain, precisely the kind of extreme weather event that experts say will only become more common in a warming world,” said Nambi Appardurai, India’s adaptation strategy head for World Resources Institute (WRI).
“Having been in the adaptation business for about 10 years now, I find these events reinforce the challenges we face in adapting to a changing climate. No doubt about it, there’s so much to learn from this experience.
“These sudden, erratic rainfalls are something we’ve seen happening over the years and the fact that this is an El Nino year has also contributed to extreme events. Certainly, though, climate has an impact as well,” he said.
The experts have, however, also highlighted the positive use of social media — Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook — as a resource tool for the people to organise and help each other.
Aswin Punathambekar, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan, said with over half a million tweets in less than two days, citizens in Chennai and across the country mobilised to produce an infrastructure of care.
“The hashtags #chennairains and #chennairainshelp are a truly creative, citizen-driven response to a crisis and at the same time a resounding call for the government machinery in India to rethink urban planning, develop better systems to deal with natural disasters and to lead the way in tackling climate change” he said.
Puneet Manchanda, a professor of marketing at the Ross School of Business, said the economic impact of the heavy rain in Chennai is going to be significant.
“Obviously, industries such as tourism will face adverse outcomes as Chennai is the entry point for most tourists. The local infrastructure, especially roads, has also taken a big hit and this will continue to impact the local economy much after the rain subsides,” he added.
Matthew Boulton, whose research in India involves vaccination and other public health issues, felt that the risk of drowning and electrical hazards may be two of the most immediate dangers, but flooding and standing water of this magnitude can significantly increase the risk for serious waterborne illness, like childhood diarrhoea.
“Although many scientists are saying that these rains are a direct result of global warming, I think that climate change has exacerbated the intensity of such extreme weather events,” said Mayank Vikas.
Meanwhile, the Srivari Sri Balaji Temple, located in Franklin Township, New Jersey, has announced to organise a prayer on behalf of the Chennai flood victims on Saturday.
“The prayer is being held to offer spiritual support to the thousands of individuals impacted by the floods in Chennai,” the temple said in a media release.