8 months ago, Chennai’s floods devastated the city. Thus ensued another flood - of concerns, problems and solutions.
But damage control doesn’t happen overnight. Arappor Iyakkam, a citizen’s forum, took one step forward to address the system with a massive social audit.
Crowdsourced from people from various walks of life, representatives from each locality helped put together a citizen’s report complete with maps and specific problem areas.Chepauk MLA J Anbazhagan was the only MLA present.
On Sunday, the collective organized ‘Kelu Chennai Kelu’ – a massive public hearing in which close to a 1000 people participated.
This large convention of flood-affected Chennai residents, residents associations, students and citizen movements was held to bring to the government’s attention the condition of various waterways in Chennai, flood preparedness and what the government needs to do before the monsoons.
People from more than 20 areas of Chennai presented their reports on the condition of waterways and flood preparedness.
A panel consisting of Retd IAS Devasagayam, High Court appointed Amicus Curiae for Illegal Constructions, Suresh, IIT Prof Sudarshan Padmanabhan, Retd PWD Engineer Thirunaavukkarasu took note of these concerns.
“ We are majorly pushing for transparency. The government should disclose their plans before the monsoons. They should make their storm water drain maps public,” says Jayaram Venkatesan, Convenor of Arappor Iyakkam. Jayaram says some pertinent points were raised by citizens regarding encroachments.
“ In the case of Chembarambakkam reservoir, the sluice gates were opened only after a long wait for the senior official’s approval. Unless they decentralize the power and use engineers at the local level, nothing can be done,” he adds.
Jayaram observes that the corporation has started desilting storm water drains.
With regard to encroachments, he presents a workable process, but it matters little when up against a thriving real-estate mafia.
“The waterbodies are turned into patta lands by tahsildars and encroachments abound as a result. We need to ask the government to grant special status to these waterbodies so they can be protected. And that special status list needs to be transparent too.”
Arappor Iyakkam along with the panel will prepare a report from the public hearing and hand it over to the Government for suitable action.