Chennai: Volunteers from across the city came together Sunday to share notes on their experiences during and after the deluge. They also brainstormed and came up with strategies to help the flood ravaged city move forward as part of an initiative organised by environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman and group to encourage youngsters take the centre stage in ensuring the society functions within the limits set by nature.
Around 150 volunteers, including students, techies, weather and hydrology experts, all under the age of 35, sat for a quiet evening at Spaces on Besant Nagar beach road to discuss what can be done to mitigate such extreme events in future. The youngsters made an appeal and took oath that the crucial city waterways like Cooum, Adyar and Kosasthalaiyar rivers are at least protected now, which so far have been left totally neglected. These are natural drainage systems without which the Chennai would have totally submerged during this flooding.
The young volunteers also expressed their disappointment over the lacklustre response from local administration and the political class. Bharati Kannan, who led a group of volunteers in Tambaram and other affected areas, recalled an incident where they were stopped from handing over the food packets to the affected people when AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi made a swirling tour. “It is so agonising. The authorities were preventing us from lending a helping hand. Mr Gandhi’s visit meant nothing for the affected, who were starving”, he said.
Ashwin Chhabria, a techie and who made a difference reaching out to hundreds of affected flood victims said the social media has helped in many ways, but equally it is important to follow some do’s and don’ts of online volunteerism.
“Many people, mostly first timers, have volunteered to help. Now, we have online tools that helps a person in need and the person who is willing to help in the same area connect within 10 minutes time. At the same time, we faced the challenges of incessant demand for information and outlandish rumours like crocodiles on the loose to an imminent Chembrambakkam lake breach that prompted many to flee homes. A significant amount of time was lost verifying the information and conveying it to people. These sorts of false messages shouldn’t be forwarded. You will be doing more damage than help”, he said.
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