Chennai : Good Old Days
The area of the waterbodies in Chennai city and its suburbs has shrunk from nearly 12.6 sq. km. in 1893 to about 3.2 sq. km. in 2017, mainly due to urbanisation, a recent study has revealed.
Names of places in Chennai are more than just geographical markers. They bring out what Chennai was not too long ago. Lake Area, Tank Bund Road and Eri Scheme are a few pointers that tell us how bountiful the city was in water resources.
Even as recently as in the 1950s, you could drive down Mount Road from Saidapet to Teynampet through what became CIT Nagar, bank left near where Gemini Flyover stands now, hop on to Tank Bund Road and continue motoring along, never too far away from water.
Cut to 2018: Chennai is all built-up and the names of places are just fluid reminders of the past.
It’s almost summer and the anxiety of Chennaiites is mounting. Despite official assurances, they are worried about how the supply of water will pan out. Today, motoring across roads means conducting tricky negotiations with water tankers that dominate not just our streets but other types of water supply too.
As the global community commemorated World Water Day recently as a reminder to use nature to overcome challenges and discussed the approaching ‘Day Zero’ in Cape Town, which is caught in the throes of a severe drought, Chennaiites recognise that their city is also part of the rather dismal scene. Rapid and unplanned urbanisation has systematically destroyed waterbodies, which act as sponges and help mitigate floods.
If the process is left unchecked, Chennai could soon be heading towards an ecological disaster.
A study by the Department of Geology, Anna University, based on a city map of 1893, has revealed that there were nearly 60 large waterbodies in the core of then Madras. The study traced the shrinking and vanished waterbodies through a series of city maps.