Agam Sei - Jan 2016

Page 1




01 AGAMSEI Jan Apr Jly Oct 2

Feb May Aug Nov 0

Mar Jun Sep Dec



Photo courtesy : K. Purushotaman , Sharanya Chander

Post floods : What real solutions should do


After the floods, as we talk of a better city and one more equipped to handle climate change, there are a couple of lessons you can take from our fore fathers method of water management. Granted that it was a simpler and a more agrarian time, and a lot has changed in the thousand years since. But what we always overlook in our prejudice, against their times, is the simple ingenuity of thought prevalent in every aspect of their lives. Their ability to look beyond the immediate short-term goal, and focus on both the smaller details and wider aspects of it. In their system of water management, their entire approach was more decentralised, incentivising people’s participation, empowering even those at the very bottom of the hierarchy of work, all within the capacity of the environment to sustain. Archna Menon discusses how we comparatively lack sensitivity, broader visions and holistic thought of this kind, when proposing development projects in today’s time.

Not just kicking around ‘Slum soccer’ is an initiative working towards social development in disadvantaged sections of society. Shradha Chhabria finds out more about their approach using sports to work towards social change.


Bridges to a brighter future? Infrastructure projects across the city without environmental considerations have affected our water bodies and exacerbated the damage during the recent flooding. Simeon Vedamanickam writes about the increased need for transparency and accountability in our expensive public infrastructure projects.




January 2016


average rainfall between 1300- 1400mm which is to the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), this rainfall if harvested, is enough to meet the basic day to day drinking

alone, between June and August, the city was on the brink of all its water sources drying up . However, just over a month ago in December it received about 300mm of rainfall in a single day which caused the floods that sank the city. During these floods there was much debate about the Chemberambakkam reservoir. The reservoir responsible for releasing 30,000 cusecs of water that submerged the banks of

sources along with four other reservoirs - Poondi, Red hills and Cholavaram and Puzhal. Together with the six ground water well fields in the Araniar-Kosathalaiyar Basin, the CMWSSB reports that the total freshwater yield from these sources is about 400 MLD which is nowhere near enough for the city’s growing though thousands of crores were spent on various water supply schemes to augment this shortage, every summer the city barely scrapes through. Although Chennai is in the process of 20 million people would be living in the city by 2030, it is yet to consistent water supply. Total freshwater yield from water sources 400 MLD

1980 MLD Projected water demand

Yield of water with respect to demand(Source: CMWSSB Report) An average person requires at least 135 lpcd of water for their daily needs (Source: WHO) but in Chennai an average person receives only about 70lpcd through the municipal water supply. Most households regularly buy water from private water But frequent and excessive pumping of ground water has led to


are over three lakh bore wells in the city that run upto 100 to and North China extract about 380–400 km3 of groundwater per year which accounts for half of the world’s total annual groundwater withdrawals. This is cause for serious concern as Chennai along with the rest of the country will have catastrophically low major water stressed regions in the near future. 70 lpcd

Water need per person per day


As much as the water scarcity is touted as a tragedy of the being called a victory. Ms. Kavitha Selvaraj, a prominent architect in the city, expresses concern that the lessons learnt from the December floods would see future development tackle flood resistance at an individual much higher than the road level. If this happens at a larger scale, -

Water availability per person per day from municipal sources

issues in the city, should include the bridging of top-down and The effort has to be not only at a macro scale, but it should stem from the micro level,


Everyday water availability with respect to need (Source: WHO) To add to this, the built up and paved area in the city has increased from 29.53% in 1991 to 64.47% in 2013 according to a insufficient to replenish the starved ground water table. Instead it allows the surface water to run-off. This has emerged as one of

at least, it is clear that resilience is not just limited to the physical capacity of a city to cope with disaster but also lies in the ability any crisis in the future.

Chennai oscillates between the two extremes of either so much water that the The




2013 Picture showing the flooded Wall Tax road during the 2015 floods.

Increase in built-up and paved area (Source: IISC report)

photo courtesy : K. Purushothaman

An average person requires at least 135 lpcd of water for their daily needs (Source: WHO) but in Chennai an average person receives only about 70lpcd through the municipal water supply.

intrusion is reported in many areas in Chennai. According to an

Panaroma showing the flooded streets of Sowcarpet during the 2015 floods. photo courtesy : K. Purushothaman


An analysis of the background behind Chennai’s oscillation between water scarcity and flooding.

January 2016





‘ Slum Soccer ’ - An initiative for social development through sports


gliding through a grassy field, with eyes on the goal and your footsteps following a ball. Since 2001, Slum Soccer has provided an escape from

children’s unbounded energy and (the few) open spaces in the city, Slum Soccer teaches the game to them as a way of social empowerment as well as improvement. The aim is

The response to Slum Soccer has been nothing short of India, spanning an age group of 4-30 with 30,000(approx.) can only increase. They are also the Indian partners for the from all over the world compete. Having won the Sport’s Gen Cup in Amsterdam, Slum Soccer has set the standard for even

homelessness, deviant behaviour and standard of living Through team are taught life skills that would otherwise be unreachable for them, living in a community wherein cases of unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse and mental health issues are prominent.

Vignesh S - Nineteen year old from the Santhome center is currently in his final year of polytechnic and has been playing football for five years. His interest in the game was first met with

Slum Soccer believes that football (and other sports) inherently offers a set of transferable skills for social development, using this

“I used to be very hot-headed and was not interested in studies. But by playing football I was able to get a sense of focus and be regular in my studies and my parents are very pleased by this change. Slum Soccer coaches taught us the rules and gave us

HIV/AIDS and more that plague the lives of their target group.

parents were hesitant to send out their children to play the game

He now trains around thirty children in the under-17 and under-14 categories near his house. disciplined before training them in the game.”

stood in favour of the program. To begin with, the kids are

Sangeetha were raised by her mother on a meagre income. As a result of

are given a chances to represent themselves in local tournaments conducted by Slum Soccer.

level tournament once a year. Next the best players from Tamil Nadu will be selected to represent their state at the Slum Soccer the best players to represent Team India in the Homeless World cup that happens every year.

Training camp for the Homeless World Cup 2015 photo courtesy : Ricardo

Coach Aaron Thomas training girls for the women’s team photo courtesy : Slum Soccer

making units to help the family. She took an interest in football when she saw some boys play and asked to join them. Seeing her enthusiasm she was allowed to train and play with the boys. Her mother was reluctant about the prospect as she felt that sports were not to be the pursuit of a girl, but Sangeetha stood her ground. “I’ve even got hurt playing the game but I consider it a part of the sport and I’m not shy about playing with the boys. I play a lot of sports and it interests me very much and I’d like to prove that even street children are capable and can

Slum Soccer believes that sports offers a set of skills for social development, to child rights and more.


Rapid shelters for the homeless


he dawn of December saw the sloppy Adyar River that we used to know, inflate in all its might and gush through the alleys, engulfing every encroached hut and legit house along its byway,

homeless. At this moment of exigency, a socially responsive group of planners, architects, engineers and student volunteers, is focussing on designing rapid shelters and reaching it across to the displaced people in the districts of Chennai and Cuddalore while simultaneously working on long term prospects for the city to

residences in the flood hit areas.

impact and holds ground.

A socially responsive group of planners, architects, engineers and student volunteers is focussing on designing rapid shelters.

Planner) and the Team Coordinators Ar. Merin and Ar.Jagdheesh. These dwelling units can be installed with low cost materials available on site such as PVC pipes or Mild Steel pipes for support and tarpaulin sheets or banners to cover the framework and can be shaped up within 2 hours at a basal cost Architect Buckminster Fuller. These forms of dwellings were used of Rs 4000-Rs 5000. The crew has devised prototypes for various by the nomads in the cold deserts with high winds and snow. The requirements such as ground with terrace dwelling by following

Moving on to take things further , these architects and planners are engaged in examining the current map of Chennai with reference to the land use map of the city, to catalogue ecological developments in the future. Simultaneously they are analysing the contours of Chennai city to figure out the lay of the land and

But if we can reinvigorate our city with ecological comprehension, engineering wisdom and visionary sagacity the floods of December 2015 will have served a purpose!


January 2016



THE FLOOD TIMELINE A comparitive analysis of intensity of daily rainfall between October 20 and December 15, 2014 and 2015 with respect to last year and the resultant collateral damage.

Oct 20

Oct 22

Oct 24

Oct 26

Oct 28

Oct 30

Nov 01

Nov 03

Nov 05

Nov 07

Chennai is still 10cm short of its normal rainfall for the season.

Nov 09

Nov 11

Nov 13

Cyclone Roanu predicted

2015 - 1105 mm ; 2014 - 183.4 mm

Chennai - 66.5 cm (43%) Kancheepuram - 64.2 cm (69%) Thiruvallur - 60.2 cm (71%)

Breach in Kavarapalayam lake

Flood 212 mm hou


An evaluation of today’s “solutions” in the context of water management systems of the past


It has been a month since the incessant rains unanswered, but what is unanimously agreed upon maybe even avoided. Going forward, as we talk of

10 lakh rupees of today. People involved in maintenance were well paid for, in kind. They were granted Maniyams or tax-free land. Not only would the produce of these lands go to the workers, the land itself formed responsibility of maintenance was on the workers.

of our city, we have been repeatedly kept in the dark, about major decisions determining Chennai’s future. But now that the water

proposals stem from only one of these or from more corrupt

of people involved in all city development projects, especially department, engineers specializing in water infrastructure and the

to understand what we really need to demand of our government.

Drawing parallels, do we, today, have a

T.M.Mukundan, in his book The Ery System of South India, talks in

rivers? Or will they just add to our already growing mounds of waste? What are the wider aspects we need to look into before

The dignity in labour

with which they approached the challenge. To establish the basic a body called Ery Variyum, was set up, with a purpose to oversee all related

The engineering of these water systems, were considered way

“It was considered an act of great merit for an individual to

land management of different water bodies. It comprised of a body of six members.

of the Government. In their survey of lands, it became increasingly

the state was to undertake such works” (Ery Systems of South India, T.M. Mukundan)

Their focus on details

working on the Pandyan Canal even goes on to quote

The Ery Variyum

who I cannot but consider to have been masters in their art.” (Ery Systems of South India, T.M. Mukundan)

People that worked on the maintenance and repair of the Ery system weren’t treated as labourers. They weren’t outcasts, with

Truth be told, today, when these schemes are laid forth and the cleaning starts, the people who dirty their hands and put their lives in jeopardy, would hardly qualify as experts, at the end of it all. A recent report in the Hindustan Times by Sudipto Mondal on 11th


January 2016



First announcement of heavy and very heavy rains

2015 2014

Nov 15

Nov 17

Nov 19

Nov 21

Nov 23

Heavy rains for 24 hours

Nov 25

Nov 27

Heavy rains

Nov 29

Dec 01

Dec 03

Dec 05

Dec 07

Dec 09

Windspeed - 10km/h Temperature - 23°C Low pressure over Bay of Bengal

109 mm

Flooding of Cheyyur , Thalambur , Maduranthakkam.

Alert m in 24 urs


17 mm

Low rainfall

Minor tanks damaged water bodies breached

15 mm - 23.5 mm

400/1083 20/912

347 dead

HOULD DO of 7000 workers are paid on a monthly basis, the others work on doesn’t have work for them. A really dangerous job comes without paid leave, medical care or with their rigid caste system, our fore fathers had the civility to treat their workers with respect.

understand that it wouldn’t solve anything. When bigger and more apartments or offices are built on the water, what right do we really have to tell those already struggling under our neglect, to leave their homes? Drainage and water should have been Chennai’s primary focus even

But if we scratch beneath the surface, we find that our lack of

proposals. We need to demand systems. Systems that are sound,



Inclusivity of all classes

the floods released on 24th December 2015 states, saving water bodies and natural resources, is nothing but an illegal As a habitual spontaneous response, these dwellings will be speaking, much bigger encroachments are real estate ventures, So how many

475 mm


The role of radio in disaster response


n the wake of Chennai floods, something that superficial layers of our lives. Whether it was ego, religious tensions or the technology we have changed a great deal with the advent of internet and smart-phones, but these were the first things to shut down during the

some people in the city were well informed about the

a radio. Radio has been one of the most reliable means of

of Chennai, the water works department, engineers specializing in water infrastructure and the Chief Engineer of

saved the day.

to the masses, as the recent floods have proved.


January 2016




A critical look at infrastructure projects across the city Panaroma showing the unfinished Maduravoyal bridge


ack in 2012, the Water Resources Department (WRD) of the Tamilnadu state government hit the projects in the city. Envisioned to ease the flow of commercial trailer trucks between the city's port and the industrial corridor along its western fringes, the Chennai Port – Maduravoyal

given a kickstart during early 2009. The expressway was to begin near Gate-10 of the Chennai Port Trust, and trace the course of the meandering Cooum River before touching down ahead of the Maduravoyal interchange. The faulty alignment along the river, which could hinder the flow of water, was cited as a reason for the state government to stop the project. Though the epiphany of it being a serious threat to the waterway

“ ture projects should come clean on the purpose, relevance and impact of this heavy

seems no more than a rhetoric rant at the moment. Ever since


with nature that has existed even before the first human walked

from which nature will find its way back to normalcy, without us. The key lies in proper assessment of environmental impacts becoming an undeniable part of human living. urban bubbles that are crowded with show-off infrastructure about a lot of other bridges on waterways in Chennai. The bridge over Cooum in the neighbourhood of Aminjikarai, right next to constructed several decades ago, the bridge has wide spans that facilitate a good flow of water. When the bridge underwent bouts of expansion to address the expanding traffic, it seems

The bridge opposite Ampa Skywalk in Aminjikarai

human capability through a responsible approach.

The unfinished Maduravoyal bridge

As humans, we have the right to know and more importantly a responsibility to learn about our environment and its

effect on the environment. In this regard, the state and its bifurcate and block the passage of water under the older span.

projects should come clean on the purpose, relevance and

give environmental concerns a backseat in the race towards "development".

special coverage on electronic and print media that promote the launch and commissioning of such projects for public use, the

The expansion project of the secondary runway of the Chennai

assessment details of the project as well, as early as the project

towards the environment. The airstrip's expansion meant the building of a large bridge over the Adyar River to support the

developments and their views should be duly considered. The companies involved in such projects as well should realise that corporate social responsibility means a lot more than just statutory compliance. Their efforts should in no way sidestep environment concerns. And if for any reason such projects

Council, the Airports Authority of India went ahead and executed the project in the early 2010s. Ironically, the intended

costly investments. lack of approach lights and instrument landing systems. And the hit us hard in the face, during the December floods of 2015. This which caused the water to flood into the airport terminals.

Over-reinforced spans blocking the water flow

status quo.

photo courtesy : K. Purushothaman


January 2016




In conversation with Kirthi Jayakumar, founder and director of the Red Elephant Foundation


or most of my life, I have found pride in being a Chennaivasi. My tendency to debate has always seen me defending my city off as an interview, but in the end tugged at my heart strings. Her passion for law and humanitarian services has

challenge that was thrown at it. For most people, the first thought of Chennai would be the blistering and scorching tropical heat and humidity, but to me it is the light sea breeze in the evening almost like an apology for the heat. While the media named us “the city that was brought to its knees”, I personally believe that “The city that refused to sink” is more apt. The number of people who were out on the roads and lending a helping hand

the ideology of people helping people by both civilian peace building and a workshop driven approach. In the haste to aid and provide for people affected during the floods, several people may have mobilised immediate relief. But Kirthi, along with her mother and friend, realised the need for sanitary napkins, along with the need for them to be eco-friendly. The last thing the floods needed was the toxicity from bio-waste. So at the first sign of the water's around their house going down, they napkins by hand. They made almost 750 on the first couple of days, and once they got a hang of it, they managed to

in the past to address empathy building, gender based resounding impact in our society. In just an hour of talking on the phone, I was completely inspired by this humanitarian. She is one of the several superheroes in our society. Each and every one of us has a

A few months back a popular site listed Chennai as the least friendly city in all of India. But “words are wind”, for this city was a persona of humanity. It has endured for centuries and it will endure. People did their part in whatever small way they could. And they didn’t do it for the name or fame.

2250 napkins. When congratulated on this feat, the down to earth Kirthi said that she was in awe of the support she had received from others; the people from abroad who had sent her the material needed and delivery people from Amazon the material and the finished napkins. They had done this out of personal ethics and a higher calling to rise to the occasion. Red Elephant previously aided Nepal during its crisis by sending almost 10000 sanitary napkins and 1400 clothes and food items.


They made almost 750 napkins on the first couple of days, and once they got a hang of it, they managed to make 1500! In a 2250 napkins.

Avinash Shanmugam

‘ Houses of Mylapore ’ - A heritage walk through Chennai‘s cultural core


he 10th of January 2016 was an unusually ongoing, the morning was alive with heritage walks, cycle tours, and various contests. Among these was the “Houses of Mylapore” heritage walk that began at 7am.

people, the walk was divided into two groups. The people were taken into three houses, which aged from 125 to 150 years old- two agraharams, and a house with Along various other buildings were described. Mylapore, speculated to be the oldest area of Chennai, has character which is slowly vanishing with modern developments.

“ houses in the area, and give their owners

The idea of a heritage walk came about as an opportunity to share such knowledge, giving people a chance to experience the charm of these buildings. The owners of look around their homes. They were able to add many

One of the quaint houses of Mylapore

from a common well in some houses. Many of the older houses, some of which date back more than 125 years, The Houses of Mylapore team hopes to take the project but expands to other areas as well. The hope is that by sharing the stories and character that are a part of the city’s photo courtesy : Divya Vijayakumar(Above), Houses of Mylapore(Below)


January 2016 A R T I S T ’ S












StartEMplan is a startup focussing on Emergency Management planning

A screenshot of the VyuSPOT app


When life is crazy, why just paint perfect landscapes?

(Natural/Man-made) in saving lives and property.


rt to me is not a product; I believe art is a way of life. Anything that leaves your inner self mesmerized

Though a major part of this lies with the Governmental agencies, there are few areas where

sculpture and other techniques are just ways that guide you to understand what you really mean to yourself through art. To me it never makes sense, because logic never gives you the goose bumps that art does.

management beforehand.

me express my soul. I’ve lived with art in its many forms for as long as I can remember. I find

encroaching the Buckingham canal

“” focussing on Emergency and Crisis Management using technology was started by Mr.Gopinath Parthasarathy, who has worked with California Emergency Management Agency & California Highway Patrol for many years and is trained by FEMA (USA) to work on several public safety measures and planning procedures for private sector

and imagine things that happen so fast inside inspires me to express it all over the canvas. Every provokes my senses to dive into an ocean of colours. My efforts trying to reflect that has eventually been considered art. I do not and cannot paint everyday. extreme. When they do, anything and everything around me helps me paint, not necessarily a paint brush and a canvas. To hear anyone talk about my understand it is two different things. When I hear and I consider that a compliment. My work doesn’t

Beyond workshops, drills and exercises, StartEMplan will use technology to create or integrate with the school’s emergency response procedure (ERP) module. This way the school


Picture of the Schools Emergency Planning process and use it on a day to day basis. So the onus is on the young minds involved as responsible future

contact us at Archna Menon : 9962972426 ( Reeveezee Antony : 9962895678 (

to make art.

and drills are conducted and planned for the next academic year. StartEMplan is also working on an app called VyuSPOT that aims to provide a one stop app for all emergency

INOW Studio

data and locates on a map for easy reference with one of emergency needs such as food or other supplies.

*Owned, published and printed by Reevezee M. Antony. Printed at Meera Offset Printers, 104, V.R.Pillai street, Triplicane, Chennai - 600 005 and Published from 207/9, Asiad colony, Anna Nagar West Extension, Chennai - 600 101. EDITOR : Reevezee M. Antony