Fear and anxiety gripped residents of Chennai on Monday as the Chembarambakkam lake touched a storage level of over 2,700 mc ft, for the first time since 2015. The Chennai Corporation and Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board have, however, stated that there is no cause for alarm and that the water will be released slowly if the downpour continues. The Chembarambakkam reservoir is currently at 80% of its capacity and civic authorities and city police are already on alert.
As of Tuesday morning, all four main reservoirs in the city - Poondi, Cholavaram, Redhills and Chembarambakkam saw water level higher than what was recorded the same time last year. In Poondi, the current storage stands at 1446 mcft (44% of its full capacity) compared to 1292 mc ft last year; Cholavaram has recorded 155 mcft (14% of full capacity) of water compared to 138 mc ft last year; Redhills has seen over 1000 mcft increase, recording 2403 mcft this year (72% of full capacity) compared to 1267 mcft last year and finally Chembarambakkam is currently at 2889 mcft compared to 460 mcft last year.
Officials from the dam safety directorate surveyed the Chembarambakkam lake on Tuesday morning and said that things were under control. "Rains have currently reduced. We will take a call on releasing water based on the rainfall status and the condition of surrounding water bodies. As of now, we are not planning to open the reservoir. We have done the necessary deepening and desilting of Adyar river, people don't have to be afraid. We are keeping an eye on the situation. We will release water if levels reach 22 feet," said S Asokan, Chief Engineer (operations and maintenance), Dam Safety Directorate. As of Monday night, water levels at the Chembarambakkam level had touched 20.16 feet. "After 2015, we have taken necessary measures to prevent any problems," he added.
Revenue and Disaster Management Minister RB Udhayakumar, who met the media in Ezhilagam, on Tuesday further added that all emergency services and personnel were ready to handle any problem that results from the rising water levels.
Chennai Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal has ordered Deputy Commissioners of Police, Ambattur and St.Thomas Mount police station to be prepared for any emergencies if water is discharged from Chembarambakkam lake.
He noted that if the lake's water level reaches 22 feet, surplus water could be released and would affect people living on the banks of Thiruneermalai, Kundrathur, Vazhuthalambedu, Natham, Thirumudivakkam, Sirukalathur, Manappakkam and other places.
Director-General of Police, Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services, MS Jaffer Sait, meanwhile, said control rooms with additional personnel would be in action round the clock.
Fire and rescue personnel have been equipped with emergency materials. This includes motor boats, life jackets, ropes and motors for pumping out water. Flood prone areas have also been identified for immediate services.
Heavy rain is likely to occur at isolated places over Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram districts on Tuesday according to the Indian meteorological department. Thoothukudi district is however already seeing unexpected heavy rains.
In 2015, Chennai saw heavy flooding, allegedly as a result of improper management of the Chembarambakkam lake. Rising water in the reservoir was allegedly released in an uncontrolled manner. The sudden release of water led to the unprecedented inundation of Chennai and its neighbourhoods, alleged opposition parties.