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Smart Plans for Clean Water

Smart Plans for Clean Water

The government made an announcement last week, listing the 20 smart cities that are going to be built as a part of the PM’s vision for the country and Chennai, the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, made the list. Along with Coimbatore, these two cities will get Rs 500 crores each from the Centre for their upgrade from regular cities to smart ones.

So, what is on the agenda?

Water. Yes, this life-giving liquid ranks among the top priorities of this smart-city-in-waiting. Safer water, cleaner ways of getting it and making it all more sustainable is where the city wants to go next. The first initiative that has been announced is that of a desalination plant to be built in T.Nagar, to take care of that prime area’s water needs.

Right now, T.Nagar’s homes and businesses get their water from the plans in Nemmeli and Minjur. With the installation of the Rs 173 crore desalination plant in and for T.Nagar, a great deal of pressure would be let off the two plants, freeing them to provide water to other, needy areas. By introducing smart meters, a tight reign can be kept on the water usage and eliminate needless wastage.

As per the govt’s announcement, this is the pilot project and upon its success, the model will be replicated throughout the state. Here’s hoping it is!

Other projects that will be highlighted include rain-water harvesting and flooding measures as well as completion of the laying of storm water drains in all parts of the city.

In both Chennai and Coimbatore, the other smart city designate, water, sanitation and waste management, with sustainability as the key ingredient, are the prime areas of focus.

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After Swacch Bharat, it is now time for Tandarust Bharat. Say hello to Jaldaan. Say what?

Jaldaan is a new initiative launched by the government to encourage the citizens to donate water to those in need. Literally, daan = donation, jal = water. According to the small print, each person taking the pledge must donate 5 litres of water to someone that has no access to clean drinking water. To make this more attractive to the denizens, there’s Madhuri Dixit, exhorting the masses to join in and donate water, just like her.

You know, in case altruism isn’t enough reason for you to start doing something nice.

 

 

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Of Flooding and… more flooding

Image courtesy: Manchester Evening News, Chennai Trekking Club

Image courtesy: Manchester Evening News, Chennai Trekking Club

 

“Please join us this weekend for a cleanup of the Adyar river. Assembly point: X. Time: Y am”

As recently as two days prior, I got this message. Despite many weeks having passed since, the effects of the colossal floods that hit TamilNadu are still being felt, with many areas still lying under water or the mountains of filth the waters threw up. Yes, the same garbage we mindlessly chucked around, now found its way back to the people! Go, Nature!

Weeks after the devastating TN floods, yet another part of the world suffered from similar events. Cumbria, in the north of England, home to the picturesque Lake District, woke up to knee deep water the day after Christmas. Things just got worse from there, with many people chased out of their homes at one of the coldest times of the year.

How did the two countries deal with their very similar disasters and what lessons can we learn from this, going forward?

1. The Home Team, Chennai

Cause: Despite the fact that a month of deluge really soaked the ground up completely, it was the release of the water from the local reservoir at supersonic speeds that upset the applecart.

Effect: Widespread floods along the banks of the river Adyar, many people losing their belongings and homes and more woe than you can bear. Grim was the outlook.

The immediate aftermath: Chaos. The city and the state were totally unprepared for this level of destruction and the Common Man swinging into action mode was what saved the day. Regular people prepared food by the tons, packed and took it to the starving masses. Local adventure sports schools took to rescue by putting their boats and kayaks to use.

And after? Once the army and the special forces entered the game, things started speeding up. Helicopters dropped food rations off for people waiting for them at the top of their buildings and rescued pregnant ladies from precarious situations.

2. The Away Team, England

Cause: The cause was rain and more rain. Typical for England, “more than a month’s worth of rain fell in a day”, across the part of the country that already receives a great deal of rain. A great deal of water + too little time = a massive flood.

Effect: People woke surprised to see water inside their previously warm houses. Widespread flooding, with more flood warnings put into place.

Immediate aftermath: The affected were moved to the local community halls whilst the local councils went about inspecting the flood defence systems and inspecting damage.

In both cases, “record” amounts of rainfall fell on the areas, setting up the situation for a crisis event. What differed massively was the difference in the approach to combat it. In both countries, the officials swung into gear straightaway, assessing damage along the line and inspecting the affected areas. But the major difference was the bulk of the citizens that swung into action in Tamil Nadu, trying to help their fellowmen. They, the volunteers, became an army, collecting money, basic essentials, clothes and even arranging for vital textbooks and reached it to the needy. Shockingly, there were many reported cases of politicians subverting their efforts and trying to put their stamp on it but the volunteers just stepped up their efforts.

In England, the elected officials and the council workers, whose job it was to do these things, arrived with the big machinery, cleaned up and supplied aid, till the affected could move on.

That, my readers, is the difference between the developing word and a developed one. And that is why, the locals are still relentlessly cleaning up the river banks and beaches, clearing up the garbage so life can return to normal, for man and animal. Or, in many cases, better than it was before.