Indian Urban Planning Needs Careful Revision
The Chennai floods have thrown up some fundamental flaws in our system of urban planning. Across India, city after city has experienced floods, while some others live with the fear of impending disasters.
In the absence of a proper National Policy for Urbanisation, our metropolitan cities are sitting ducks for all sorts of natural disasters. Spineless local planning organisations, which are subservient to their administrative and political masters, are not willing to put their technical know-how on the table, for fear of punishment transfers and mafia-induced pressures.
The Chennai floods show all same problems can surface in other Indian cities. The geography of South India demonstrates how rivulets, ponds, streams and rivers emanating from the Western Ghats flow towards the East to the Tamil Nadu coast. In Tamil Nadu’s hurry to industrialise, these watershed areas have been ravaged, with all the major industries, new educational institutions, housing estates, etc. coming up in the past two decades. Thousands of smaller ponds and streams have been filled up, increasing the surface water flow manifold. While the disaster has been caused by nature, the impact would not have been so severe but for the man-made factors.
Pinning responsibility for faulty planning and political decisions, preparing a scientific watershed management plan, putting in place a disaster warning system, and addressing the immediate problems of the urban poor are the first steps forward. Chennai’s citizens have a resurgent spirit. That indeed is the human capital to build on.
Ramachandran Nair, Bangalore- Karnataka