Chennai Floods

The Chennai flood situation is acutely ironical because as a metropolis, as a nation, and as a world, fresh water is a precious resource. We spend 100’s of millions of dollars creating desalination plants along the coast and increase our carbon footprint, along with mindlessly expanding our ecological footprint. However, year after year, we squander opportunities to harvest natural fresh water during the monsoon. Even during our current floods, it is conceivable and possible to create deep bores inland to feed natural underground aquifers, which have been depleted over the decades. These resources can never be replenished due to our focus on creating run off towards diversion to the ocean. This compounded by an impermeable surface contaminated by plastic and other non biodegradable waste. Through rapid deployment and decisiveness, it is possible for us to restore vast sub-terrainean fresh water reservoirs, during these floods. I would urge the central government to size this opportunity and ban plastic bags or impose an environmental disposal tax of Rs 20 per bag.

As for the Adyar River, River fronts and Lake fronts globally are a resource for their communities and can create a distinctive character while playing a critical role of enhancing safety during natural calamities and flood disasters. Rivers and lakes provide the city a rich resource, while enhancing the aesthetics of the region and most of all, a socio economic impetus, if designed to do so.

A process of design thinking can convert these gifts of nature to benefit humanity. In my experience, going back through the 1980s and 1990s, numerous departments that work in silos, have refused to collaborate in the design and execution of such common vision.

We should and definitely use this crisis to rewire our lopsided mechanisms to work with a single minded focus to achieve a holistically sustainable design solution for our city and measure the impact of our progress through the Reciprocal Design Index.

Sheila Sri Prakash
Chief Architect

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