1.Why floods in Chennai are a man-made disaster (Down to Earth)

2.Judicial safe zones: on special deposition centres in courts. (The Hindu)

1.Why floods in Chennai are a man-made disaster (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue as how faulty management practices leads to man-made disasters. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Chennai is a victim of man-made disaster. Its soil and rock types suggest that the city is historically a flood plain, says Chennai-based research Institute, Care Earth. The city is dotted with wetlands and natural channels where excess water from the city that is essentially a very flat area can be drained off.
  • Currently, the city in Tamil Nadu is again experiencing rains that can be dangerous. With more rainfall in store, the city needs to relearn its water management system.

Assessment of the problems

  • The city that is bordered by the sea in the east and the state of Andhra Pradesh in the north could grow only in the west and south. In 2000, southern Chennai became an information technology hub. In the process of expansion, the city engulfed several fishing and agricultural villages and hamlets, thus paving way for several ecological and environmental challenges that the administration could not tackle.
  • By 2011, the city corporation area increased four times its original size, says a 2014 report by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMS) has a size of 1,189 sq km and comprises of eight districts, including the Chennai city district. The population has increased from 5.8 million in 2001 to 8.9 million in 2011 in CMA.
  • Industrial developments and establishments at Sholinganallur and Perugudi, Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Ennore and Nadambakkam attracted many investors to Chennai. The city almost changed to a concrete jungle. The open areas decreased drastically and the built up and paved areas, according to an analyses by IISC, increased from 29.53 per cent in 1991 to 64.4 per cent in 2013.

Issues

  • There has been total disconnect between hydrology and urban planning in the city that has been experiencing a drop in water table, with saline intrusion due to unplanned extraction of groundwater.
  • Moreover, the groundwater is highly polluted due to unplanned solid waste dumping; the effluents leached from these solid heaps and contaminated the groundwater. The recharge structures like lakes, tanks, ponds and other wetlandsin the city have been disregarded and the natural course of water has been tampered. This is one reason for urban flooding in the urban and peri-urban areas.

Fractured flood sink

  • The city has large marsh in the south (about 20 km south of the city centre), smaller satellite wetlands around it and large tract of pasture land. The southern marshland called Pallikarni marshland is known as the flood sink area of the city as it drained about 250 sq km of the city in the eighties. The marshland is housed in CMA.
  • There were smaller wetlands around the marshland that served as a source of irrigation in the area that cultivated only paddy. The marshland that was around 5,000 hectares (ha) during independence got reduced to almost 600 ha around 2010-11. The only reason for all this was rapid urbanisation. During this time, along with the marshland, all other wetlands of Chennai became sites of waste disposal, housing, commercial and industrial purposes.
  • As the city expanded in the south, Pallikarni marsh became fragmented. As any other city, the state of Tamil Nadu only valued the land and not the water body which came to be treated as wasteland. The city found this marsh most suitable place for urban development.
  • The area was allotted to the Mass Rapid Transport System of the Ministry of Railways, the National Institute of Ocean Technology, the Chennai Corporation, and the Centre for Wind Energy Technology. In 2002, a survey by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board showed that that the marsh lost around 90 per cent of its original extent. This is also the year when the city observed a big flood event. The most affected areas were the adjoining areas around the marsh. Citizens started movement to save the marsh land.

Way ahead

  • The conversion of wetlands into lands for other purposes was very easy in the state until it amended the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act to prevent the conversion of wetlands for other purposes. Under this act, the permission of conversion of wetlands to other residential purposes is to be done by district collector and not the tehsildars, as before. But this did not stop the encroachment of the wetlands, say the citizens.
  • Better understanding of aquatic ecosystem is needed to enable development of best management practices, thus transforming the way the land and water are being used.
  • Rapid changes in habitat and land use are major threats to wetlands. This needs proper management plan for restoration of wetlands at landscape level. The unplanned urbanisation not only makes a city prone to urban flooding but also decreases its groundwater recharge. The researchers of Indian Institute of Roorkee in 2014 studied the effect of change of land use on groundwater recharge. They commented that proper planning and management is required for aquifer recharge. It further says that there is a need to understand the land use pattern in the past and present to understand the potential changes.

Question– What India can learn from the traditional systems to manage the disasters such as floods? Throw light on certain examples in this regard.

 

2.Judicial safe zones: on special deposition centres in courts. (The Hindu)

(GS II)

What is the Supreme Court direction?

  • The Supreme Court’s direction that within three months there should be at least two special deposition centres under every high court’s jurisdiction is a positive step towards ensuring a conducive and protective atmosphere for vulnerable witnesses.

What is the need of Deposition centres?

  • It has long been recognised that children testifying as witnesses find the courtroom experience intimidating. In many cases, they are victims themselves.
  • Deposition centres takes forward the principle already contained in laws relating to children. For instance, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act provides for child-friendly procedures during a trial.

Child friendly procedures during a trial

  • Under this law, the officer recording a child’s statement should not be in uniform; also, during court proceedings steps must be taken to ensure that the child is not exposed to the accused. The court is allowed to record a child’s statement through video conferencing, or using one-way mirrors or curtains.

Present status of Deposition centres in India

  • At present, Delhi has four such deposition centres, backed by guidelines framed by the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court’s guidelines are inspired by the UN Model Law on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

Objective behind these centres

  • The main objectives include eliciting complete, accurate and reliable testimony from child witnesses, minimising harm, and preventing secondary victimisation.
  • Secondary victimisation, or the harm that occurs not due to a criminal act but through the insensitive response of institutions, systems and individuals, is something that vulnerable witnesses often experience in cases of sexual violence. The creation of special centres would have to imply much more than a safe space for recording the testimony of vulnerable witnesses.