Chennai Floods:  Decoding the Economic Impacts

A flood is hazardous not because of heavy rain alone, as Cherrapunji receives more intense rain annually than Chennai (Current flood Scenario).  Floods are hazardous more because of dense overburdening of population.  Due to it, drainage is choked, rainwater gets struck in living areas causing floods, power and drinking water supply are affected, food and other daily utilities are not available and much more.  Let’s go deep into it.

Although I’m not a huge fan of ‘The Hindu’, it is one of the prominent newspaper in India.  It was published daily since 1878, but did not come out on 2nd December 2015. This has never happened in the last 137 years of its existence.


Is Chennai a victim of Man-made Disaster?

Currently, Chennai is experiencing rains that have broken a record of about hundred years.  When one researches the reason for this sudden increase in rains, few important facts come to light.  For example, in 2000, southern Chennai became an information technology hub; in the process of expansion; the city enveloped several fishing, agricultural villages and other small villages, thus paving way for several ecological and environmental challenges that the government could not control.

By 2011, the city corporation area increased four times its original size. The population increased from 4.34 million in 2001 to 8.6 million in 2011.  The city almost changed to a concrete jungle. Over 300 water bodies disappeared in the span of 10 years. Big apartments and huge industries played its part in making way to the floods.

There has been total disconnect between hydrology and urban planning in the city that has been experiencing a drop in water table, with saltwater intrusion due to unplanned extraction of groundwater. Moreover, the groundwater is highly polluted due to unplanned solid waste dumping; the sewage leaked from these solid heaps contaminated the groundwater. The structures like lakes, tanks, ponds and other wet lands in the city have been disregarded and the natural course of water has been tampered. This is one of the reason for urban flooding in the urban and peri-urban areas.

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, it will become your regrets. This was not first time in the history of Chennai that, the urbanization resulted in a natural calamity. In 1976 Adayar River overflowed and invaded. But those were the days when Chennai aspired for metropolitan status. But today, a brand new airport is built on the floodplains of the same river, a bus terminal on flood prone Koyambedu


Can Government acts stop this Desolation?

The conversion of wetlands into lands to commercial sites was very easy in the state until it adapted Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Acts, to prevent the conversion of wetlands for other purposes. Under this act, permission for the conversion of wetlands to other residential purposes is to be done by district collector and not the sliders, as before. But this didn’t stop the extraction of wetlands.


Economic Impacts:

Chennai hosts over 165 BSE-listed companies with an aggregated market capitalization of over Rs 285,000 crore. A big automobile manufacturing and IT hub, the floods have badly affected the business activities as the companies completely shut down their productions.

Chennai accounts 25% of India’s automotive production and almost contributing 40% to the country’s manufacturing sectors. According to the live mint India exported 3.5 million vehicles in 2014-15. It will decrease drastically and even delivery period and service will suffer.

For India’s export-driven IT service companies, which primarily earn their revenues by billing global clients on per-hour basis for the software services they offer, loss of a business day impacts performance. As most of the companies in the sector, have sounded a caution for the third quarter, in anticipation of extended client furloughs less working days. Besides, the Q3 has also been traditionally weak for Indian IT services entities, as clients start evaluating their budgets for the next financial year, expecting a delay in project kick-ups and completion.

Textile fabrics was a huge business which was estimated more than 900 crores in December- January festival seasons. This too was adversely affected due to Chennai floods.

While the earlier rains caused the loss of 500-600 crores, Trade association of India estimated the financial loss in Chennai floods to exceed Rs 15,000 crore even as insurance companies are anticipating claims of at least Rs 500 crore.


Flood or an alarm for greedy governments?

The devastation caused by Chennai floods is an alarm for all the governments and to the Mankind. As we become more and more civilized, we ignore nature and try to become our own masters. This assumed ownership over nature will result in adverse climatic conditions claiming the lives of so many people. Further, it takes years to bring the social and economic conditions to normal in areas affected.

Hope, the governments understand the seriousness behind the environmental issues and finds ways to work with nature and not against it.



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