The recent alarming calamity- the Chennai flood, has been claimed to be the consequence of heavy rainfall, but, the reports analysed has brought before a new reason on which we need to act upon.

The reason is that- the outlets for the unwanted water have all been closed.

One’s not blaming anyone for the actual event of nature but what can be questioned is why do we make such plans that go so wrong?

This is because the city’s administration failed in maintaining an effective storm water drainage system. So much so that the city’s airport has also been flooded and the runway seemed to be submerged underwater. This is because the airport has itself been built on the basin of the Adyar river. Cooum River, Adyar River and Buckingham Canal, which serve as the main rain water drain for the city, have all seen encroachments.

What is worrying, according to a report submitted by CMDA to the Madras High Court, is that there are over 1.5 lakh illegal structures in the city. These encroachments are mainly found in lowland areas and around the banks of the rivers wherefrom the excess water from the Chembarabakkam reservoir is left to drain out. Not only this, land overtaken was also once areas where ponds and lakes existed.


The video below will give you a better outlook towards how this problem has emerged.

So what can be done now after the huge amount of loss the city has borne?

We have come so far along in encroaching water bodies that it is now impossible to turn back. We cannot ask people living in Velachery or Pallikarnai to simply move out. So what should people there do?

“They can bite really hard and bear it,” says Jayaraman, “It’s not their fault, it is sad they have sunk in their last penny into those properties, but some damage cannot be undone.”

But that only means that some damage can be undone, and for that, we should simply stop doing what we have been doing for the past couple of decades, adds Jayaraman.

First, the Chennai Master Plan has to be reworked by the CMDA from a hydrological point of view, and it has to be followed. “A master plan is not just a piece of paper,” says Jayaraman.

Secondly, holding areas and storage plans should not be built upon. “Chennai and Chengalpettu have a large number of tanks. We have to use these tanks by connecting drains to them instead of building on them,” says Subramanian.

Thirdly, as Devasahayam says, storm-water drains have to be an integral part of laying roads. An area cannot be developed without proper roads or drains.

Urban planning expert Mark Selvaraj writes, “In the last five years, Chennai has spent 10,000 crore to build storm water drains. But construction of these drains should be based on proper hydrological calculation which was never done.”

Further, a major revamp of the city administration is required, say experts. “There is no concept of city government. Different organizations like PWD, water board and City Corporation are working under different ministries. We need a common authority to look after the city,” says Devasahayam.

“The city needs a separate agency which can plan, control and implement storm water drain projects, responsibilities now being shared by PWD and the corporation. A central planning agency should replace the CMDA in this regard,” writes Selvaraj.

Beyond all of this, there is one thing we cannot do without – accepting that this is a man-made problem.

Thus, having a better outlook in the very initial stages of building anything is very important and should be properly noted i.e. “Identify the various risk areas which impact the project…”



  1. It is a most insightful and beautifully written article. The research done is clearly visible. The fact that you have been able to address a current issue so properly is to be applauded.

    I am so proud of my little sister 🙂

    Keep writing …

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