Progress must continue to prevent urban flooding in India

Progress must continue to prevent urban flooding in India

The 2015 Chennai floods was a wake up call for city planners and residents in metro cities across India. Since then, there has been endless debate and discussion on the causes and possible solutions for urban flooding. Although there has been some progress, flooding continues to occur, as we currently witness during the monsoon season. While we revisit and reiterate these discussions, there are also some radical solutions from other countries that could be worth looking at for continued progress.

Poor city planning and management happened to be one of the factors for disaster in Chennai. Through analysis and research of the Chennai floods, it was discovered that wetlands and water bodies could be taken into better consideration while planning. Research shows that there has been an immense loss of wetlands in Chennai, which has unfortunately translated into becoming flood zones for the city. You see, these water bodies, if maintained, are ideal for groundwater recharge. When they are encroached upon by private settlements, there is a greater risk of flooding. Every Indian metro city needs to identify its flood zones and avoid building settlements and encroachments there to avoid the risk of flooding.

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The city’s drainage system was also looked at after the 2015 floods. The lack of and careless solid waste management clogs up many of Chennai’s drainage systems. Lack of a macro drainage network connecting all parts of the city well happened to be a contributing factor to the 2015 floods.

Although various communities in Chennai came together for rescue efforts during the floods, discussions of having better disaster management plans were also brought up. Practicing safety drills in schools, companies, and other institutions could prepare the public a lot more. A good forecasting system well in advance could help carry out rescue efforts more efficiently.

A few more radical solutions can also address urban flooding. One of which includes green rooftops that can be easily incorporated in urban areas. Researchers in the West have been fascinated with the concept of green roofs, or roofs covered with plants, and finally begun to implement them in cities like California, New York, and Toronto. These green roofs have immense potential in storing rainwater. It is these miniature green spaces that will absorb a large percentage of rainwater. D 201

Keeping the city greener by planting more trees is always the simplest solution for flood control in metro cities. Rain gardens that are similar to green roofs, but lower to the ground, are also being implemented in countries abroad. These gardens also naturally trap and re-circulate rainwater.

Even more radical than these solutions are permeable concretes, which have already been incorporated in cities in China. Acting like a concrete sponge, this type of concrete allows water to pass through, accumulating storm-water underneath. Since 2016, China has incorporated the sponge city pilot construction in over 30 cities. Of course, pipes and drainage system would have to be completely re-arranged to accommodate this concept but it could be worth pondering over…

Aside from discussing layouts and radical ideas, residents and community groups need to get much more involved to protect their own city. Although civil society groups organize occasional cleanups in Indian metro cities, they can be much more regular and consistent in their efforts to appeal to the masses. Creating digital awareness by circulating eye-opening pictures and videos on social media could also help shatter ignorance and indifference. By giving access to information in a convenient and simplified manner to the public, there can be a much more collaborative effort to spark change.

The city of Chennai came together after such a huge stumble. With increased awareness and knowledge, residents of all Indian metro cities would surely come together to protect their city.

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Greener Chennai= Healthier Chennai

The title of this blog is pretty straightforward, and we’re pretty sure you’ll agree with us when we say trees are beneficial. A greener environment means reduced pollution, reduced heat in public spaces, less soil erosion, and fostering a sense of better physical and mental health. A quick escape to your closest hill station or wildlife sanctuary make for a great rendezvous with nature where you’ll reap all these benefits of greenery. But in today’s fast-growing industrial world, what we need to be focusing on is incorporating more green spaces in urban areas. With more proactive city planning and enthusiastic community involvement, Chennai has great potential in becoming greener.

The busy day begins for tree counting in the South Zone of Chennai

The busy day begins for tree counting in the South Zone of Chennai

When we’re discussing urban green spaces, the city’s holistic planning needs to be taken into consideration. We have been conducting a tree census for quite some time in various zones of Chennai. While we have found certain developed areas, such as the Madras University staff quarters, or the Manali satellite city, to be far greener, the more rural, underdeveloped areas, such as Karapakkam and Pallavakkam, are compromised. Vast barren spaces, that provide ample space to plant trees, remain untouched. The damage from poor planning and lack of maintenance is also evident through the vast amount of trees collapses after the 2016 cyclones.

Some streets lie completely barren of trees in Chennai...

Some streets lie completely barren of trees in Chennai…

The damage is yet to be stopped. Due to incorporating more drainage systems, a common problem that avenue trees face in Chennai is root pruning. Pruning the roots of trees lead to unstable tree-tops, making them more vulnerable to damage. Ongoing discussions to send all power cables underground would need to seriously take the environment into consideration. New infrastructure should not interfere with damage to the Earth, in the long term.

Many trees faced damage after the cyclones of 2016. Proper maintenance and care is recommended to preserve the greenery of Chennai.

Many trees faced damage after the cyclones of 2016. Proper maintenance and care is recommended to preserve the greenery of Chennai.

Dense and compact canopies provide to be the most idealistic choices for trees in a city like Chennai, but greater selectivity of species increases time and effort. So what we feel is a faster and more efficient method is by planting more shrubs and palms to increase the green cover of Chennai. The Palmyra Palm and the Wild Date Palm make for suitable and fairly aesthetic choices. Various species of bamboo also have stable roots. Other shrubs, such as the Viraali, Seetha Pazham, or the Custard Apple are just as beneficial in providing plenty of oxygen, moderating the temperatures, improving the groundwater recharge, and providing a healthy habitat for birds and species.

More trees definitely accounts for a better society, giving more shade, more relaxation, and ultimately a healthier environment.

More trees definitely accounts for a better society, giving more shade, more relaxation, and ultimately a healthier environment.

There has been community effort by educational institutions and companies already to restore greenery in Chennai, especially after the cyclone of 2016. However, community involvement should be consistent with strong guidance and support. Community service programs can be implemented making it mandatory for students to perform tree planting in their local areas at least once a month. Students can be provided with small incentives to keep the engagement active. There can be exhibitions and festivals across the city targeted at the public, concerning environmental issues. Representatives from NGOs and CSR teams of companies can provide interactive workshops and presentations to educate the community about environmental issues and what can be done further to help.

Restoring the green cover of Chennai is going to benefit us all in the long run so let’s start now before it’s too late.

Author and pictures: Arushi Dutt