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Reasons for Chennai rains and future preparedness

Freak weather conditions-El nino combined with Indian ocean dipole all came together on one single day to swamp Chennai with the heaviest rainfall in century and the worst part is that it could all happen again.

The World Meteorological organization has been producing regular updates on the scale of this year's El Nino. Warmer temperatures in the Western Indian Ocean due to dipole kept temperatures high in Bay of Bengal resulting in strong weather systems in south Andaman sea leading to Chennai floods.

But the disaster could have been less catastrophic, had there been not such a gross neglect of environment and natural shock absorbers.

Chennai paid the price for loss of wetlands and open spaces. The city's concrete structures increased and correspondingly floodplains and open areas reduced.

However urban planners seem to have ignored this and unplanned urban growth by leveling of marshlands and encroachment on buffers around rivers had its consequences.

Is it worth sanctioning Rs. 1000 crore projects and then spending more than 15000 crores to restore normalcy to flood ravaged city?

While Chennai had a civil drainage system, there was no proper storm water drainage system connected to rivers and other water bodies.

Chennai which used to have host of river and water channels has also seen reduction in their number further aggravating the matters.

While national disaster response forces(NDRF),fleet of all 3 Indian forces- army, navy and air forces were actively involved in evacuation exercise.

One can't turn Nelson's eye to the significant voluntary contributions of private citizens and civil society organizations.

However what we need is a full proof preventive mechanism apart from these curative measures.

First necessary is fairly accurate disaster warning system to help people make adequate preparations so that they are not at total loss of precious objects like certificates, jewellery etc. after the disaster hits.

Some time ago there were talks of delineating river corridors and mapping flood plain zones to enable the residents to know the flood risk factor of their localities but it did not materialise.

A proper storm water drainage system planned urban growth and relocation of people living in low lying areas and buffers are much needed steps.

We are the first saviour of our lives and thus we should have a proper kit containing essential items like packed food, medicines, necessary documents, matches etc. handy at an accessible area in our house.

NDRF should vigorously conduct awareness drives to self-help themselves before the forces could reach or even if there is no outside help coming. Invite all the stakeholders including scientific community, ecological experts, civil engineers, disaster responses forces to cite viable solutions to the problem and minimise loss of wealth and lives.

A strong political will to mitigate losses and have proper response mechanism rather that political tussle for maximum allocation of funds can only solve the matters. While El nino is expected to continue haunting the country and has become regular phenomenon we cannot turn away from our responsibility.

Natural disasters have no friends or foes with reports indicating that emerging economies in Asia including India are among the top 10 countries facing the greatest financial risk from natural disasters. Hence this is the time to rise and take up the responsibility rather than shirking it.

-Payal Mittal

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