Coming down heavily on the state government for its unpreparedness in handling floods and water shortage in Chennai, the Madras High Court (HC) on Tuesday said that it may take up suo motu the case against Greater Chennai Corporation if waterlogging does not improve by the end of the week.
“For half the year we are made to cry for water. The other half, we are made to die in it,” observed the Madras HC, while hearing a public interest litigation for directing the state government to maintain adequate width for roads.
The court’s scathing view comes at a time when rainfall-related incidents have claimed five lives so far.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has sounded a red alert in the state for the next two days. The IMD has warned that due to a low pressure area over Bay of Bengal, light to moderate rainfall is expected in most places in the state; other areas could receive heavy to extremely heavy showers. The current floods have damaged 538 huts and inundated several homes.
The court also said the Corporation should have learnt its lesson from the 2015 floods that wreaked havoc in the area (500 people had died in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh). Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu, who were part of the hearing, also pointed out that the encroachment of water bodies was a major reason for the flood situation.
Chennai authorities don’t seem to learn lessons from the past. “Chennai floods are yet another testimony of human-induced climate change ravaging lives and livelihoods. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water’s (CEEW’s) recently released Climate Vulnerability Index ranks Chennai as one of the most climate-vulnerable districts. Flawed urban planning and large-scale destruction of natural ecosystems like mangroves and wetlands have compounded the impact of these extreme rainfall events,” said Abinash Mohanty, programme lead, CEEW.
“Enhancing community action with impact-based public warning, restoring natural ecosystems across sensitive zones, and a renewed focus on risk-financing can build local resilience and avert the extent of loss and damage,” added Mohanty.
According to a study by Anna University, the main reason for groundwater shortage in Chennai was due to a decline in water bodies by 75 per cent from 12.6 square (sq.) kilometre (km) in 1893 to 3.2 sq. km in 2017.