Normalcy returning to Chennai after record-breaking floods
Despite waters receding in areas that had been flooded, residents of Chennai, the capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, are still struggling for survival.
An estimated 280 people have died so far in what have been the worst rain-triggered floods to have hit the city in over a century.
More than 14 inches of rainfall battered the region since December 1. Many parts of the city are still waterlogged, with people stranded on rooftops.
The local and central governments have taken a series of steps to help rescue the trapped residents. The country’s South Central Railway is running special trains to pick up passengers.
The Indian government is providing free rides out of the flooded areas, considering the number of displaced people. Passengers can travel in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses free of cost for four days starting from Saturday.
Additionally, Chennai Airport, which had been flooded with operations having come to a standstill, has begun to resume partial operations on Saturday.
According to The Hindu, a leading English newspaper in India, more than 10,000 people have been rescued as National Disaster Response Force added 50 more aid teams on Friday.
Meanwhile, NDTV reports that 80% of power facilities have been restored and a “war-like relief effort,” has been mobilized by the Indian Armed Forces. However, schools, colleges and offices in Chennai remain closed.
SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSE
However, apart from the efforts of official agencies, people across India have been taking to social media to raise funds to provide food, drinking water, blankets and other aid for those stranded.
A Twitter hashtag #Chennairainshelp has become the rallying point for the relief effort online. Many people in the city have also opened up their homes to those who have been displaced.
Telecom companies have also been offering free talk-time to their customers, with mobile phone services, which were badly hit, having been partially restored. While it might appear that the worst of the rains has passed, the city still remains on tenterhooks, with rain expected over the next few days.
FOCUS ON URBAN GOVERNANCE
India’s Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the country should learn from this disaster.
“Chennai is a natural disaster of unprecedented scale… Chennai gives a lesson and we must learn from this lesson and improve our urban planning and improve city governance, which is very essential,” he told PTI, the largest news agency in India.
The country’s environmental experts have blamed unregulated urbanization for the flooding, saying that the city “could have fared better.”
“We have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that our urban sprawls such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Srinagar, etc., have not paid adequate attention to the natural water bodies that exist in them.” said Sunita Narain, Director general of Centre for Science and Environment, adding that each of Chennai’s lakes has a natural flood discharge channel which drains the spillover, but the city has built over many of these water bodies, blocking the smooth flow of water.
“We have forgotten the art of drainage. We only see land for buildings, not for water,” she said.