On the Eastern length of South India, otherwise known as the Coromandel Coast, dramatic flooding over the course of the last month or so has wreaked havoc on residents. The city of Chennai, the state capital of Tamil Nadu with a population of around 8.7 million, has been especially affected by these floods. On December 1st, Chennai saw half a meter rainfall, which is more than the city of San Francisco sees in an entire year on average. For over a month, most of the city has been underwater from dramatic flooding, displacing around 1.8 million and causing the deaths of around 450 people. 18 of those deaths came when a hospital lost power from the flooding. This region of India has been very prone to flooding in the past, and annual rains appear to be getting worse. Unpredictable weather from the Bay of Bengal to the north can send storm surges to the low-lying lands of the South Eastern coast. The floods have impacted the poor the most, as many shanty towns have been.
Some blame the extent of the flooding partly on poor city management, particularly how the expansion of the city was overseen. With the advent of concrete came an explosion of new building projects that absorbed long existing communities, growing around wetlands. With this growth, the number of wetland drainage systems has decreased from 650 at one point to just 27 today. Local authorities, concerned primarily with keeping their own elected positions throughout the area have been unwilling to counter this overbuilding.
Government office have much criticism for their handling of the floods. In response to this criticism, the state government has its disaster response to the floods, including ramping up its damage control efforts. But many continue to be critical of the government, especially its of water from a reservoir, which many believe made a bad situation much worse.
Sources and Further Reading:
- As Chennai Flooded, Officials Fiddled – The Wire
- Chennai floods: ‘We had to pay a bribe to cremate our mother’ – BBC
- Next time by water – The Economist