In Nov-Dec 2015, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry were hit by one of the deadliest floods in the history of natural disasters in India. A 5 minute Google search will tell you the degree of damage-
More than 500 people were killed and over 18 lakh (1.8 million) people were displaced. With estimates of damages and losses ranging from nearly ₹200 billion (US$3 billion) to over ₹1 trillion (US$15 billion), the floods were the costliest to have occurred in 2015, and were among the costliest natural disasters of the year
I was one of the countless online volunteers helping with the relief efforts. Most of the on-ground work was carried out by the localites, the fishermen, the cops. When the situation got out of hand, the army was deployed along with fire services, NDRF, coast guards for mass evacuation and relief distribution. We were mostly helping with the coordination- obtaining and passing on info on relief materials, connecting people to the rescuers on calls and on social media. There was a complete breakdown of urban infrastructure-no water or power supply and working mobile networks. The city was a submerged wreck and survived solely on hashtags, Google spreadsheets, crowdsourced efforts & kindness of total strangers from all over the country.
But a 5 minute Google search will tell you all that as well.
What it won’t tell you is the fear and desperation, the sense of devastation as people saw their homes, their lives, families destroyed overnight. The million helpless, angry, frustrated calls we received 24×7 for 5 days at a stretch. SOS calls from starving people, caretakers at orphanagess & old age homes, pregnant women. Calls from volunteers who got robbed or attacked by angry, desperate mobs because they’ve gone without food and clean water for 2 days.
I have never had any first-hand experience of a natural disaster. I remember receiving a call in the dead of the night. A woman in her late 20s calmly informed that her father passed away last night. They couldn’t keep the body at home any longer and needed to reach the mortuary. They were stranded in Virugambakkam for over 24 hours with no power at home & no boat in sight. She was barely audible over the terrible flood-affected network & then the call got disconnected. She didn’t want sympathy or words of comfort. All she wanted was one goddamn boat to take her late father’s body to the morgue. All I could do was pass on her number to an on-ground rescue team. We couldn’t even follow up because a. we couldn’t get through to the volunteers b. they had to make their cellphone charge last longer.
News reports won’t tell you these stories. Consider yourself lucky.
But they will tell you that the TN govt has painted the floods as an unavoidable civic crisis caused by unprecedented heavy rainfall, blatantly refusing to acknowledge that it is a man-made disaster, brought about by rampant constructions on water bodies across the city, thereby blocking important catchment areas and hampering rainwater drainage.
Heavy rainfall in coastal South India is normal; what is not is how construction has been carried out in the name of development without giving a proper thought to sustainable urban planning and consequences. For a detailed analysis, click here.
If progress is carried out at the cost of environment, then it’s only capitalism that will thrive in a dystopian future. Reminding you here that people breathing bottled air in China is no longer another gut-wrenching Black Mirror episode.
Which is why you should care very badly for Ennore creek. Because clearly we have not learnt anything from the Chennai floods.
Chennai Porombokke Paadal, is a campaign that seeks to raise awareness about how unchecked construction, dumping toxic industrial wastes (often sanctioned by authorities) at the ecologically sensitive Ennore creek is destroying it every day. Brainchild of Chennai-based environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, the campaign film has veteran Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna singing a reminder about ‘porombokke’ land being communal land and therefore, our responsibility & appeals to the viewers’ conscience to do their bit.
The campaign subtly but cheekily calls out the government for ignoring environmental issues in the name of development and urges viewers to sign a petition to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) with an appeal to save Ennore creek.
The constructions will have disastrous consequences, one we probably don’t have the means to recover from. And the fact that it is happening with impunity, right in the backyard of the 4th largest metro city in India only shows our cavalier disregard for the environment. Seriously, how stupid and self-destructive can a species be?
We’ve seen how the World Culture Festival in Delhi has destroyed the biodiversity of the Yamuna floodplains forever, despite repeated warnings by noted environmental activists. While its supporters claimed that the festival aims at promoting peace and solidarity, they failed, or refused, to understand why it should never be at the cost of the environment.
Environmental concerns are not a first world problem, despite the massive indifference towards it. Another 5 minute Google search reveals this:
Since 2009, an estimated one person every second has been displaced by a disaster, with an average of 22.5 million people displaced by climate or weather-related events since 2008 (Source: UNHCR)
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 19.3 million people were displaced worldwide in 2014 due to climate change, with studies indicating that the number could be anywhere between 250 million and one billion by 2050.
There will be 50 million environment refugees by 2020, according to the UN.
Which means there is a direct human cost of environmental issues. And just because it’s not happening to you, does not mean it is not happening.
You have Google at your fingertips. Do a quick search and find out why the survival of Ennore creek is important for your future as well. You also have the means to do your bit, again at your fingertips.
SIGN PETITION HERE, Ask NGT to Save Ennore Creek http://www.thenewsminute.com/save-ennore-creek