In her well-researched piece, Kavitha Iyer is right when she argues that the debate is not about the submergence of Mumbai. The debate, I would add, is about what ought to be debated — BMC’s lack of an adaptive approach to fundamental solutions. It has a ‘preach, not-practice’ approach to tackling rising heat levels in the city. One thing leads to another till it becomes a Catch-22 situation of abandoning of good ideas, neglect and horror for its urban poor.
Segregation of waste at source is one such grassroots idea. The BMC has had regulations in place for years for waste segregation at source, but has lacked the will to enforce them. Despite knowing that unsegregated waste (mixed waste) becomes garbage, BMC does not refuse to lift waste that has not been segregated.
Another good idea gone awry falls within the green versus grey debate. In several instances, it has made lush green belts give way to increased grey of concrete. The rise in heat levels is palpable in just one season. While pedestrian pathways are definitely needed, can’t the urban planners find ways where ‘green’ doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the grey; can the two not coexist, shouldn’t they coexist?
Sunayana Sadarangani, Media Educator and Environmental Activist
June 17, 2022
As a resident of Chennai and as an architect, I totally agree with the critical voice of this article Growing pains: Why Chennai’s run-in with disasters will only worsen.
Although Pallikarnai marsh lands are protected areas under the state declared Tamil Nadu Forest Act of 1882, they are surrounded by dumpsters and junkyards. This has led to the shrinkage of the marshland area. These dumpsters also harbour the risk of toxins seeping into the marshlands where several migratory birds can be spotted.
Under the Tamil Nadu Municipal Laws (Second Amendment) Act 2003, the government made rainwater harvesting mandatory for all buildings, both public and private sector. However, the functionality of the proposed systems and their regular maintenance is often ignored, prompting us to question the viability of the promised “sustainable schemes” for development. The damage done by the Tsunami in 2004, the floods in 2015, and the yearly cyclones only goes to show that we have been following the wrong formula for growth and development. I am truly terrified of the monsoons here. Even brief showers cause roadblocks and water logging. The city’s poor drainage layout causes rainwater to flow into homes.
Chennai’s climate and topography are defined by its water bodies. And it is an absolutely undeniable fact that any further growth of the city — without incorporating appropriate water management systems first — will surely lead to irreparable damage. We have to grow amidst nature, not against it. The need to devise a new outlook and to involve and educate the common people is of prime importance while preaching for sustainability as a way of life.
Abinaya V Raghavan, Architect
June 3, 2022