While the debate persists on whether the city is flood ready, a report on the Chennai floods by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs was tabled in the Lok Sabha and presented to the Rajya Sabha on August 12. The committee's 31-page report was based on inputs by the Water Resources ministry, the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Detailing the damage, the role of various concerned agencies and the observations made, the report points out that the predominant reasons for the flood were illegal encroachment and faulty town planning.
According to the report, encroachments played a big part by reducing the carrying capacity of the lakes in Chennai and adjoining districts. This was particularly evident in the cases of Cooum, Adyar and Kosasthalayar rivers which run dry through urban areas and have a discharging capacity of just a few hundred cusecs. The overflowing of these riverines was predictably caused by further minimizing the carrying capacity by encroaching on them, the report observed.
How did these riverines overflow? The report points to the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board, which released water from reservoirs that were overflowing due to torrential rainfall. This in turn discharged water into the Kosasthalayar, Adyar and other riverine systems. The rivers overflowed their respective banks on either side at many places and had therefore inundated the low lying adjoining areas.
Ordering strict action against illegal encroachments, the committee report directed the State Government to tackle the growing mafia involved in illegal construction and clear flood channels and riverbeds where these stand. While the State Government has vowed to remove 11 unauthorized constructions, the committee observed that was an inadequate measure.
For the report, the Tamil Nadu government had submitted that there were 117 encroachments over a length of 500 m across the Vayalur river in Kancheepuram District, of which 41 were removed. In the banks of the Adyar River, 4046 houses were identified as encroachments over a length of 839 m in the river bank although no action had been taken yet.
Holding the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and Chennai Municipal Corporation responsible, the report observed that no assessment of the floods had been done. Having been the agencies in charge of layout plans and monitoring encroachments in the city, negligence on the part of the Corporation was noted.
Another observation made was the faulty drainage system that badly needed desilting and was choked as a result. The committee recommended that regular maintenance of the drainage system should ideally be of topmost priority "however daunting the task may be".
In the concluding paragraph of the report, here is the exact statement of Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi while deposing before the Committee.
“So, basically there can be no preparation for a disaster that occurs once in hundred years, because the cost of preparing for the disaster would be disproportionately high.”