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Chennai Floods: Wake up call for saving disappearing water bodies


By Nithin Sridhar

The Chennai flood situation has once again brought forward the ugly results of mindless urbanization that is driven by greed and have no regard for environmental concerns.

Chennai has recorded the highest rainfall in the last 100 years. The houses, buildings, and the streets have all been flooded with water. There is a huge loss to life and property. But, much of this could have been avoided if only the city planners and builders had given proper consideration to the environmental impacts of rapid urbanization.

According to the press note released by the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), unregulated urbanization and climate change-induced extreme weather are the reasons behind the crisis in Chennai. It further states that rapid urbanization leads to the destruction of natural drainage systems, thus increasing their vulnerability to flooding.

CSE Director General Sunita Narain said: “In Chennai, each of its lakes has a natural flood discharge channel which drains the spillover. But we have built over many of these water bodies, blocking the smooth flow of water. We have forgotten the art of drainage. We only see land for buildings, not for water.”

Thus, the CSE press note clearly links the Chennai flood situation with the disappearing of natural water bodies, which in turn is caused due to urbanization.

Natural water bodies play a very significant role in not only fulfilling human needs for water but also in keeping ecological balance. Urban water bodies, be it lakes or tanks, supply water for various domestic and industrial activities. The tank water also penetrates through the soil and recharge the groundwater. They are the major sources of fresh drinking water. And lastly, as they link to rivers and canals, they help to carry excess water during heavy rains.

But, in the absence of these tanks and lakes that act as a natural drainage system, the runoff water from the rains have no place to go, thus causing flooding of the cities. Further, lack of water tanks results in the scarcity of fresh water.

Rapid urbanization with complete disregard for ecological concerns is the single most important factor that has resulted in the disappearance of water tanks.

Consider the case of Chennai, in the 19th century, the Madras area had at least 43,000 functioning water tanks. Just two decades ago, there were at least 650 water bodies. But, today only a fraction (less than 30) of them remains.

The situation is more or less similar in other cities as well. Bengaluru had around 262 water bodies in 1960. But, today there are only 81, out of which only 34 can be recognized as live lakes. Ahmedabad had 137 lakes a decade ago out of which 65 lakes have already been built over. In Delhi, a survey last year identified 611 water bodies, out of which 274 already dried up and another 190 that cannot be revived.

This rapid depletion of water bodies is being caused due to various urbanization activities like drying of tanks for constructing buildings, encroachment of dried tank lands, deforestation that results in loosening of soil, dumping of garbage, sewage, and industrial wastes, and growing of weeds that makes the water tanks useless.

Thus, Narain comments: “If you ask the obvious question of how construction was permitted on the wetland, you will get a not-so-obvious response: Wetlands are rarely recorded under municipal land laws, so nobody knows about them. Planners see only land, not water and greedy builders take over.”

Hence, unless and until the state governments, city corporations, planners are not sensitized towards the environmental aspects of the issue; greedy builders are not restrained, and environmental rules and regulations are not strictly implemented, Indian cities and other urban centers will continue to be exposed to severe natural calamities.


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Superstar Rajinikanth Raises Concern Towards Water Conservation

On Tuesday, Rajinikanth made television acting debut on Discovery channel's new format series 'Into The Wild with Bear Grylls', after 43 years of cinema, Discovery said in a statement on Wednesday

Rajinikanth said every Indian needs to come forward and contribute to water conservation. Wikimedia Commons

Tamil Superstar Rajinikanth has appealed for water conservation on a war footing as he marks his TV debut after 43 years of cinema via Discovery channel’s ‘Into The Wild with Bear Grylls’ programme on Wednesday.

“This war (water conserving) has to be led at all levels including government, community as well as on the individual front. I believe this show on Discovery is a perfect platform to take the message of conserving water to every home across the country,” said the Thalaiva in a statement.

Rajinikanth said every Indian needs to come forward and contribute to water conservation. On Tuesday, Rajinikanth made television acting debut on Discovery channel’s new format series ‘Into The Wild with Bear Grylls’, after 43 years of cinema, Discovery said in a statement on Wednesday.

“I agreed to finally make my debut on TV after more than four decades of cinema,” said Rajinikanth about shooting for ‘Into The Wild’ with Bear Grylls. On Tuesday, the 69-year-old Southern superstar shot for the programme in Karnataka’s Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Bandipur Tiger Reserve, an 874 sq km national park, was formed by integrating most of the forest areas of erstwhile Venugopala Wildlife Park established in 1941, and later enlarged to its current state in Chamarajanagar district, about 220 km southwest of Bengaluru.

The tiger reserve lists 28 species of mammals to be thriving in the forest, including royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, common leopard, bonnet macaque, Indian pipistrelle and barking deer, among others. In August 2019, Grylls had hosted Prime Minister Modi in the Man vs Wild show, which was shot at the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand in February 2019.

Other international icons who featured in the highly popular show include United States President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Titanic star Kate Winslet, Tennis virtuoso Roger Federer and Hollywood great Julia Roberts and others. “Into The Wild is a truly unique show, at one level it offers adrenaline pumping action, while at another, the show lends itself beautifully to driving a specific purpose for the larger good of society,” said Rajinikanth.

The Southern star said he readily accepted to act in the new series when officials from Discovery channel approached him, finally marking his TV debut. Kavithalayaa, a production house founded by Rajinikanth’s guru K. Balachander also played a significant role, he said.

“Bear Grylls has tested the survival skills of multiple celebrity guests, pushing them to their limits; I look forward to the survival challenge in the mesmerizing wilderness of India,” said Rajinikanth about the popular host who showcases survival strategies in extreme challenging conditions in the most remote locations around the world.

Tamil Superstar Rajinikanth has appealed for water conservation on a war footing as he marks his TV debut after 43 years of cinema via Discovery channel’s ‘Into The Wild with Bear Grylls’ programme on Wednesday. IANS

Also focusing on water conservation in the new programme, Megha Tata, managing director, Discovery, South Asia said the channel wanted to add a layer of purpose with each episode of the newly commissioned series ‘Into The Wild with Bear Grylls’.

“Last year, the show featuring Modi, generated much desired attention on conservation of wildlife; we are confident that the forthcoming episode featuring Rajinikanth will sensitize each one of us about conservation of water,” Tata said. Grylls heaped praise on Rajinikanth, saying that the actor is a phenomenon who has captivated audiences across the world with his work both on screen and off screen.

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“Our team is all very excited to work closely with Thalaiva! He has always shown such energy and flair in all he does and he will need that courage and determination again on our journey into the beautiful wild of India,” said Grylls, throwing the challenge to the veteran actor. (IANS)