Rain exposes Chennai authorities’ callousness & lack of preparedness


Dr Kouser Fathima

One more spell of heavy rains and one more city comes to a standstill. And this is the sad state of a major city of India. The heavy rains in Chennai have caused lot of damage, death toll has risen to 80. The social media is full of pictures of the havoc caused by the rains.

The heavy rains have also exposed the sad state of our civic authorities and their lack of preparedness in dealing in such situations. Sorry to say that the callous response should force us all to think about the state of affairs.

After the devastation caused by rains in Mumbai, the public had expected that the authorities would wake up from slumber and start working to handle similar situations. But, alas, the apathy of civic authorities and the government is shocking, to say the least.

One can argue Mumbai and Chennai are two different cities run by different governments but both are capitals of two states, major metros with huge commercial investments and of great importance hence one would expect good infrastructure development and civic maintenance by their respective governments.

Why only these two cities, most of our metros would have similar stories if it rained heavily. Be it Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi or any other city, none seemed prepared to handle heavy rains.

Every time it pours heavily the whole city comes to a standstill. Waterlogged roads, overflowing drainages, knee deep water on roads, traffic jams and stranded people — all these tell a sad tale of how unprepared the administration is.

The water logging in Chennai is due to the bad storm water drainage system and improper pre monsoon distilling. The distilling work was slow and incomplete, the authorities however state that the banning of manual scavengers and delay in procurement of distilling machines as the excuse.

But even after the heavy rain authorities in many places had no proper water-sucking and desilting machines. The government has said that the damage due to rains is inevitable and all help will be provided but the opposition blames the government of inefficiency. While the city suffers, the blame game continues.

The meteorological department had warned of above normal rainfall in September but the civic authorities were caught unprepared. Surprisingly, the situation in the older areas of the city is much better than in the newly formed areas. Illegal encroachments, unplanned development and construction and badly designed drainage system all together created an unimaginable situation.

The apathy of the authorities has resulted in death and destruction, enraging the residents of the city. Many areas were unreachable due to knee deep water and residents were seen helping each other rather than wait for help.

The rains brought out the undying spirit of the residents who reached out to people stranded in rains, many places people used boats to rescue others to safe places. The Indian jugaad came handy, people come up with innovative ideas to help themselves and commendable spirit displayed by the Chennaities.

Leading Cab operator Ola offered boat services free of cost to help the stranded residents. Due to the waterlogging supply of essential commodities have been hampered, prices of food items have risen, all adding to the miseries of the residents. At many places people are distributing milk and other essential commodities to help fellow residents.

Every disaster brings out the best in us but this does not discount the apathy of the civic authorities and administration.

The deplorable state of Chennai is an eye opener to other metros, which are growing rapidly but without proper planning and infrastructural development. The authorities in other cities better learn from the Chennai disaster and be prepared to handle weather changes. After all the media attention and public fury hope the issue is not forgotten until the next heavy rains.

Authorities need to wake up from their slumber and start planning beforehand. We now have adequate technology to predict heavy rains and also to plan accordingly in advance. Repeat of same situation would be only due to apathy and mismanagement.

For a country trying to be a global power such incidents are unthinkable, until we focus on planned development, our cities will continue to be held hostage by changing weather conditions and its residents continue to suffer. Not all drawbacks can be hidden from world by photo-shopped images, to be a global power emphasis on infrastructural development is a must.