Chennai, the pristine and sanguine capital city of Tamil Nadu, one of the southernmost states of India. Known for its serenity and magnanimity toward the acceptance of all kinds of people, was unanimously devastated by continuous incessant bouts of torrential rains for the past three weeks.
Worst of its kind for over a century, 2nd December 2015 recorded 50cm of rainfall just over a period of 24 hours, starting a series of unprecedented calamities the likes of which the city has never experienced.
The city is surrounded by multiple catchment areas for sourcing water and one such reservoir just happened to exceed its holding capacity and it just happens that the drainage run off is right through the city in the form of Adyar River. This small modest stream with a virtually a nonexistent capacity of 1000 cubic meter of water was pounded with 20000 cubic meter of water release from the reservoir which incapacitated and stranded more than countless amount of families and businesses settled along its banks.
There are other lakes within the city that have dried up and lost their significance and to accommodate rising demands, land uses for these places were changed and fast paced infrastructure developments without regard for CMDA regulations were sanctioned. This “greed for realty blinded the reality” and these low lying areas (Velachery, Thoraipakkam, Medavakkam, Mudichur, RK Nagar) were affected beyond imaginable proportions.
Due to almost null or poorly maintained public infrastructure, the water runoff was deterred (simply because precautions were never taken to improve the landfill and honestly storm drains were just redundant with the amount of rain that was pelted) and water was logged, entering the homes. Due to high risk of electrocution in lieu of open lines, the power was cutoff and mobile networks suspended. Back to cave-man style, out of reach from the much adapted and integrated technology. The affected portions was marooned for nearly 2 days with people left to fend for themselves.
Temper’s running high and the heated debates and petty squabbles hosted by the government and the state’s administration and their rivals, business collapsed, dwellings overrun with water and people left to nothing but sense of hopelessness all over, the city saw the rise of a psychological vigilante “Humanity”.
The common man was taking up the mantle and a hero was cropping up for every other family, either by wading through neck deep water to reach provisions to them, or paddling on boats through the flooded streets rescuing the stranded, or giving moral support to the mentally agonized, this city saw myriad of such people, simple hearted but determined just toward one unanimous cause “Helping out the next of brethren”. Reel life heroes and celebrities started becoming real life ones. Social media achieved what the news and the government could not accomplish in their tenure.
With a huge number fans following their wake Actors Siddharth, RJ Balaji started using their reach of social media (facebook, twitter and whatsapp) to connect and reach to the common people stirring and motivating especially the soul of the powerful generation of youths starting the “Humanity Movement”. Volunteers were shuttling about without any regard for the downpour mass packaging food, water, collecting edible materials, blankets, medicines etc. even the minutest of things that anyone could contribute was a lifeline for another in distress.
Many Hash tags started to trending and emerging on Facebook and twitter uniting everyone under a common banner, #chennairains, #chennairainshelp, #chennaifloods, #prayforchennai, #volunteers among various others. Braving the waterlogged areas the National Disaster Response Force personal along with the Indian Army partook in rescue operations 24X7.
Even though the nature tried to shake us, and the blinded mistakes continuously committed by man, the one thing that everybody single learned from this ordeal is that to whatever the extent calamity stretches, Humanity will always be the beacon of hope enveloping everybody into its bubble. Pray for Chennai, and it’ll be back stronger than ever before.
By: Achyuthan Ramaswamy