CHENNAI: Successive state governments’ disregard for land use based on credible hydrological data has put residents at the mercy of natural disasters. The damage cannot be undone unless a scientific urban planning formula is evolved, according to German research scholars.
Speaking at the Chennai Water Forum, German scholar Christoph Woiwode and his team of researchers pointed to the large scale industrial and residential expansion happening on the city’s outskirts – Irungattukottai and the Sriperumbudur-Oragadam industrial belt – and said this had a severe impact on the use and distribution of water in the region.
“SIPCOT is developing industrial estates, but is not looking beyond. The directorate of town and country planning grants building permits if projects comply with building regulations. This is a limited approach. We need to develop a regional scheme wherein we can know and understand which agricultural lands can be converted for residential or industrial purposes. We need to make a spatial plan on a larger scale. The solution lies in understanding this connectivity,” he said.
Woiwode’s team conducted a survey covering 300 households in Sriperumbudur in an attempt to formulate a flood management plan in conjunction with land use pattern observed in the area.
In another panel discussion to determine the impact of constructions on floodplains as a causal factor to the December 2015 floods in Chennai, NGO Care Earth’s trustee Jayshree Vencatesan spoke at length about “ecological” encroachments. The Pallikaranai marsh, she said, had shrunk due to encroachments, drastically bringing down its capacity to drain flood water. “The [Pallikaranai] marshland’s integrity has been tampered with due to fragmentation. Around 65% of the flood protection zone in the city has been damaged,” she said.
Pointing out another example, she said the Retteri Lake at Madhavaram has been turned into a sewage dump, which is affecting the ecology. S Janakarajan of the Madras Institute of Development Studies said he was surprised that Chennai was getting flooded in rain despite its “fantastic” drainage network. “The floods were a man-made disaster because our drain networks were all clogged,” he said.
He said it was possible to retain much of the rainwater during the monsoons instead of letting it drain into the sea. “If we can map and protect our water bodies which would enable us to store rain water in tanks, we can prevent it from draining into the sea and later struggle to get it back at a high cost through desalination,” he said.
Credits ET Realty