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Sunday, 13 December 2015

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Chennai post floods:

A city of deluge, disease and desolation

Even though there is respite from rain and threat of renewed flooding, the spread of communicable diseases looms large over Chennai. Already, cases of vomiting and gastroenteritis are being reported. Soon, the usual monsoon diseases like cholera, dengue, leptospirosis that plague the city every year might follow.

- NDTV

Is Chennai waiting for its `Surat moment’ to get its act together? It seems the city has come dangerously close to the situation that Surat –, the diamond capital of India – faced when hit by a plague in 1994. The pneumonic plague incident, which cost the lives of 52 and led to the migration of 150,000 people, caused a major health scare across the country.

Swathes of water

Chennai over the past month has been covered in vast swathes of water with garbage floating on it. Sewage has entered storm water channels, clogging them. Blocked with water hyacinth and overgrown with sewage, the Cooum and Adyar rivers and the Buckingham Canal could barely carry flood water when the sluice gates at Chembarambakkam were opened.

The rivers soon flooded the areas adjoining their banks. As the water level subsides, the waste left by the flood is strewn on the roads. Since the city has a flat terrain, it, naturally, has poor drainage. The mouths of its rivers are clogged with sand and construction along the banks has narrowed the rivers and reduced the flow.

The unsegregated garbage adds to the problem in inundated areas. Corporation of Chennai estimates the city generates 4,500 tonnes of garbage daily. This is deposited in plastic bags and left in bins at each street corner and picked up by collection trucks and deposited at landfills in Kodungaiyur in north Chennai and Perungudi in the south.

Chennai seems unaware of its own filth. It seems to have got comfortable with it. Sadly, in extended areas where roads and sewerage lines were recently laid, officials have overlooked precautionary measures to manage solid waste.

The Koyambedu Market Complex is a case in point. Promoted as the largest such facility in Asia, it handles tonnes of fruits, vegetables and flowers everyday but does not have a system for disposal of waste. A biomethanation plant to generate electricity from waste was set up in 2006. It worked in fits and starts but is now in disuse. Similarly, a proposal to turn non-biodegradable waste into electricity is yet to get clearance.

The citizens and administrators of Chennai do not have control over rain. But they can certainly control the way they manage and live in the city, so that the floods do not also result in an avoidable health tragedy. Chennai should stop waiting for its Surat moment.

(The author is an environment journalist and blogger)

- Times of India

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