Chennai: As El Nino builds momentum this year the risk of flooding is greater than ever. As the Pacific Ocean temperatures rise, violent storms, droughts and floods occur around the world. Many nations are expecting their most extreme weather in decades and Chennai is no exception, nor Tamil Nadu of which the capital is only a small and possibly rain shadow part. Violent rainstorms and floods are going to be the order of the day as the natural phenomenon of El Nino occurs.
Our weather bloggers stuck their necks out to say about a month ago that, contrary to the perception that the monsoons would be affected and would underperform, the El Nino of 2015 would actually favour the northeast monsoon and it would be above normal.
They were trying to allay the fears that the northeast would fail and leave the city and state water starved in the coming months. They were right, only alarmingly so as the rain has been pounding the state since the delayed start of the monsoon sometime in the last 10 days or so.
Evidence points to some rains being heavier than they were years ago in certain areas and more people are in danger of being flooded. The flood is no more an ancient myth that grabbed the minds of very old cultures. Man has always been known to be powerless against the destructive force of nature, no matter how modern the technology is that enables him to fight it at a basic level. To get angry and blame everything on under-preparedness is, perhaps, natural.
What makes the scene considerably worse is opposition politicians are tending to seek political mileage out of people’s misery by blaming everything on the government. Well, the Chief Minister cannot reach into the sky and turn off the taps. Two years ago, precautionary measures taken ahead of Cyclone Thane proved most successful with minimal to nil loss of life when the winds blew over as the storm made landfall near Cuddalore, geographically a place likely to suffer from being exposed to the sea and the elements.
Were we better prepared to handle the rain this northeast season is a subject that can hardly be raised at this point when an unprecedented amount of rainfall has fallen on Chennai alone in the last week. There is a likelihood the city will get twice its annual quota of rainfall just from the northeast, which means no amount of precautions would have saved those who are living in areas where water gathers more or in low lying localities that were once upon a time parts of water bodies.
Israel, the French Riviera and Hawaii are said to have suffered from flash floods from heavy rains this year while river flooding has inundated Saigon, Sochi, Tbilisi, Accra and Manila, cities that were never known to flood, according to international reports.
Intense rains have tended to follow heat waves marking a classic pattern of extreme weather which scientists blame on global warming. The conditions are such in 2015 that the worst scare scenarios of Hollywood seem to be coming true to an extent.
History may have thought of as events as ones which would take place once in 100 years. Such calamitous events have become far more commonplace.
As the fresh water of Chennai and the surrounding districts’ flash floods drains into the Bay of Bengal it at least offers some respite to Indians’ notorious draining of waste into the land and sea.
A kind of cleansing process is taking place even as most drains are working and allowing the water to flow out. The city has seen worse. In 1964, the Cooum and Adyar breached their banks and caused chaos. Going to school and coming back was an adventure.
While our sympathies must lie with those whose lives have been turned upside down or disrupted thanks to the rain that is tattooing a steady beat on anything it is falling on, we can only pray that the relief work of draining the water goes on quicker.
We are paying the price for the consequences of foolish human actions. There are forest fires burning around the world even as drought has gripped many nations.
When the world’s leaders meet in Paris at the end of the month they better do something about global warming. Otherwise, we might just see a recurrence of a Biblical Noah’s Ark.
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