The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has blamed the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) for the 2015 floods in the city, saying that the city development authority altered land uses in the metropolitan area and failed to check large-scale constructions along waterways, which choked the waterways. “Allowing conversion of agricultural land, without government approval and unauthorised conversion of water bodies, non-urban and open space and recreation land for various other purposes, resulted in drastic changes in land use and thereby, contributed to the floods,” the CAG said.
The report of the CAG on ‘Performance Audit of Flood Management and Response in Chennai and its Suburban Areas for the year ended March 2016′ was tabled on the concluding day of the assembly session, on July 9, 2018. The December 2015 floods claimed 289 lives, inundated 23.25 lakh houses, disrupted power and telecommunication services, caused extensive damage to public and private property and brought the city to standstill for several days.
The report also said the state lacked a law on flood plain zones, to protect natural waterways and water bodies had lesser storage capacity, due to tardy implementation of restoration projects. On encroachments, that CAG said that despite the enactment of a law in 2007 (Tamil Nadu Protection of Tanks and Eviction of Encroachments Act, 2007) to protect tanks from encroachment, the percentage of encroachments kept increasing year after year. “Encroachment of tanks, lakes and river beds played a major role, in causing the massive floods,” it said.
It said the tardy implementation of a project for restoration and protection of water bodies, resulted in abandoning of lakes and consequent reduction in water storage capacity of water bodies. The CAG pointed out that the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority did not meet even once, since its constitution in November 2013.
It said eight projects taken up under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, to provide new channels and strengthen existing ones in the metropolitan area, could not be completed due to encroachments and lack of coordination between different departments. “Inadequate coverage of storm water drains (SWD) due to poor outlay, coupled with improper design and missing links in SWD networks, contributed to floods,” the CAG report said.
Among the recommendations made by the CAG, were expansion of the storm water drain networks and enactment of a law on flood plain zones, on the lines suggested by the centre. “The CMDA should not allow development along water bodies, without ensuring ameliorating measures taken by developers, to prevent the impact of such developments,” the report said. Explaining the post-floods scenario, it said the government conducted a special drive, evicting 4,531 of the 23,840 slum families along the margins of the Adyar and Cooum rivers. “Greater Chennai Corporation, in 2016-17, took up works to construct 292 kms of SWD, by earmarking Rs 463 crores. The expenditure increased by 159 per cent,” it said.