BBC News – Viewpoint: Why India’s Chennai has run out of water

Chennai (formerly Madras), the capital of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, is gaining notoriety as the disaster capital of the world, floods one year, cyclone the next, and drought the year after. But it is not alone. Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman explains why.

Chennai – Tamil Nadu – India, 02 July 2019. As I write this, it has rained in Chennai, the first real welcome shower, but one that lasted only 30 minutes. But, still, that has been enough to flood the streets and stall traffic.

The irony is that Chennai’s vulnerability to floods and its water scarcity have common roots. Blinded by a hurry to grow, the city has paved over the very infrastructures that nurtured water.

Between 1980 and 2010, heavy construction in the city meant its area under buildings increased from 47 sq km to 402 sq km. Meanwhile, areas under wetlands declined from 186 to 71.5 sq km.

The city is no stranger to drought or heavy rains. The north-east monsoon, which brings most of the water to this region in October and November, is unpredictable. Some years it pours, and in other years, it just fails to show up.

Any settlement in the region ought to have been designed for both eventualities, with growth limited not by availability of land but of water. Early agrarian settlements in Chennai and its surrounding districts did exactly this.

Shallow, spacious tanks, called erys in Tamil, were carved out on the region’s flat coastal plains by erecting bunds with the same earth that was scooped out to deepen them. Essentially, the infrastructure for water to stay and flow was created first; the settlements came later.

This agrarian logic valourised open spaces. Each village had vast tracts of land, including water bodies, grazing grounds and wood lots, demarcated as Poromboke or commons. Construction was outlawed in the commons. The three districts of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram alone had more than 6000 erys, some as old as 1,500 years.

So rather than transport water over long distances against gravity, early settlers had the technology and good sense to harvest water where it fell. But this faded with the advent of modern technology.

As urban logic took root, built-up spaces began to be seen as more valuable than open earth. In fact, one could argue that Chennai’s date with “zero water” was made in the 17th Century when it was incorporated as a city by Royal Charter. Born a colony of the British, the city rapidly became a coloniser of the countryside.

The British commandeered a small irrigation ery in a village called Puzhal, and vastly expanded its capacity to supply drinking water to the city, in response to the Madras famine of 1876. Renamed the Redhills Reservoir, this was Chennai’s first centralised, big-budget drinking water project.

Reliance on a distant water source disconnected residents of the fast urbanising settlement from local water and landscapes. For the urban agenda, this was great as it freed up inner-city water bodies for real estate development.

In the 1920s for instance, the ancient 70 acre Mylapore tank was filled up to create what is now a bustling residential and commercial area called T Nagar.

That tank was part of a larger complex called the Long Tank that extended nearly 10 km (6.21 miles) to the north. Now all that remains of these tanks are thoroughfares named Spurtank Road and Tank Bund Road.

The city has pursued its aspirations to become an economic hub by promoting itself as a major IT and automotive manufacturing centre. In addition to attracting new settlers to Chennai and vastly increasing the pressure on scant resources, these industries have dealt death blows to the region’s water infrastructure.

Land-use planning today is a far cry from the simple principles that prevailed in medieval Tamil Nadu.

Wetlands were off-limits for construction, and only low-density buildings were permitted on lands immediately upstream of tanks. The reason: These lands have to soak up the rainwater before letting it to run to the reservoir.

It is this sub-surface water that will flow to the lake as the levels go down with use and time. Unmindful of such common sense, the IT Corridor (a road which houses a large number of IT companies in the city) was built almost entirely on Chennai’s precious Pallikaranai marshlands.

And the area immediately upstream of Chembarambakkam, the city’s largest drinking water tank, has now been converted into an automotive special economic zone (SEZ).

Other water bodies have been treated with similar disdain.

The Perungudi garbage dump spreads out through the middle of the Pallikaranai marshlands.

The Manali marshlands were drained in the 1960s for Tamil Nadu’s largest petrochemical refinery. Electricity for the city comes from a cluster of power plants built on the Ennore Creek, a tidal wetland that has been converted into a dump for coal-ash.

The Pallavaram Big Tank, which is perhaps more than 1,000 years old, has over the last two decades been bisected by a high-speed road with the remainder serving as a garbage dump for the locality.

In Chennai, the water utility supplies are barely a fourth of the total water demand. The remainder is supplied by a powerful network of commercial water suppliers who are sucking resources in the region dry.

Along the periphery of Chennai, and far into the hinterland, the land is dotted with communities whose water and livelihoods have been forcibly taken to feed the city. The water crises in these localities desiccated by the city never make it to the news.

The world won’t change unless we replace capitalism with other ways of doing business that are not premised on the exploitation of nature and people.

Our dominant economic model, with its blind faith in technology, is doomed.

Modern economy views open, un-built land as useless. It believes that value can be extracted from such lands only by digging, drilling, filling, mining, paving or building on it.

Degrading land use change is colliding with climate change in all the modern cities of the world, exposing their vulnerabilities.

Chennai’s struggles with water, be it flooding or scarcity, cannot be addressed unless the city re-examines its values, and how it treats its land and water.

Further growth and more buildings are not an option, it needs to actively shrink in size instead.

By ushering in policies to promote land-friendly economies in the state’s hinterland, the government can make it easier for people to migrate out of the city in a planned and feasible way.

Although difficult, this would be less painful than what would happen if they were to wait for nature to do the job.

Nityanand Jayaraman is a writer and social activist who lives in Chennai. – Names of 274 Sikhs excluded from the black list, reveals Sukhbir Badal

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 02 July 2019. Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh today, the SAD president Sukhbir Badal informed that the Union government of India has removed the names of 274 Sikhs from the black list. He informed that now names of only 40 Sikhs have been left in this black list of India.

Beside it, the Indian government has also scrapped all the black lists prepared by the Indian embassies in various countries on their own.

Pretending to be a sympathizer of the Sikhs who have been blacklisted by the Indian government, Sukhbir Badal said that the black listed Sikhs had to face problems due to this black list but now all their problems have been sorted out.

Sukhbir Badal informed that the restrictions on the families of these Sikhs have been also lifted and they can now come to India without any problem.

He further said that the Union government of India is thoroughly deliberating upon the issue of political Sikh prisoners who have been languishing in the Indian jails despite completing quantum of sentences granted to them. He expressed hope that positive results will come out in this concern.

Names of 274 Sikhs excluded from the black list, reveals Sukhbir Badal

Oostende: De Lijn Stelplaats – Orthodox Church

De Lijn Stelplaats
22 June 2019

De Lijn – tram of the 75 km Coastal Line 0

New tracks

Orthodox Church
Kyrillos & Methodios
22 June 2019

Oostende Orthodox Church

Goedheidstraat – Goodness street

Goedheidstraat 9 – 8400 Oostende

Overvloedstraat – Abundance Street

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

NDTV – Supreme Court issues notice to Delhi Police in 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots case

The Supreme Court bench set July 23 as the next date of hearing, stating they would hear the matter in a detailed manner on that day.

New Delhi – India, 05 July 2019. The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Delhi Police on a batch of pleas filed by convicts in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

The matter was heard by a three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.

The pleas had been filed by various convicts who were indicted by the Delhi High Court.

The Supreme Court bench set July 23 as the next date of hearing, stating they would hear the matter in a detailed manner on that day.

After a span of 22 years, the Delhi High Court on November 28 last year had upheld the Karkardooma trial court’s order convicting 88 people in a case relating to anti-Sikh riots that took place in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri area in 1984.

In 1996, the Sessions Court of Karkardooma had convicted 88 of the total arrested accused. The convicts had later filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court against the trial court”s order.

More than 100 people were arrested in November 1984 for allegedly rioting, burning houses and violating curfew imposed in the Trilokpuri area of Delhi.

Massive riots had erupted across the country after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards. As per the official records, around 2,800 Sikhs were killed across India, including 2100 in Delhi alone, during the violence.

Dawn – ‘Under siege’: Fear and defiance mark life for Pakistan’s Hazaras

“We want to serve Pakistan and despite suffering tragedies and incidents, our love for peace has not diminished.”

Quetta – Balochistan – Pakistan, 05 July 2019. High walls around the neighbourhoods of Pakistan’s embattled Hazara community in Quetta are designed to protect them from extremist militants, but also serve as a constant reminder of the threat they face.

Soldiers and security checkpoints greet visitors to Hazara Town, one of two large guarded neighbourhoods in the capital of Baluchistan, where religious and sectarian groups often target the mostly Shia Hazaras with bombs and guns.

Despite improved security in recent years, partly because most Hazaras have moved into the guarded enclaves, hardline militants keep up attacks, such as a blast in April that killed 24 people, among them eight Hazaras.

“We are living under siege for more than 1-1/2 decades due to sectarian attacks,” said Sardar Sahil, a Hazara lawyer and rights activist.

“Though all these checkposts were established for our security, we feel we were ourselves also cut off from other communities.”

Sahil carries a pistol whenever he leaves home, and relies on his faith as a second layer of security.

“I kiss my mother’s hand and she kisses me too, and says goodbye with her prayers and good wishes,” Sahil told Reuters at his home.

Hazaras, said to be descendants of the Mongols who swept out of central Asia to rule the subcontinent for many centuries, are easily distinguishable in Pakistan by their facial features.

That has made them vulnerable to attacks by groups such as Pakistan’s banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and Sunni militant group Islamic State, which has attacked them in both Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, also home to many Hazaras.

Many community businesses that flourished in Quetta’s bustling wholesale markets have shuttered and relocated to Hazara Town or Mari Abad, another Hazara neighbourhood.

But the community is defiant. Some still venture out into Quetta in search of work, while others keep businesses running.

The Quetta community held its first Hazara Culture Day this week to celebrate and showcase its history, music and traditions.

The community strives to keep its protests peaceful, despite unrest stirred up by militants looking to pit people of different sects against each other, said Abdul Khaliq Hazara, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), which has two provincial assembly representatives.

Domestic media often portray the Hazaras as targets of sectarian attacks or holding sit-ins to demand greater protection, but the community is developing and growing, said martial arts specialist Nargis Hazara.

“Every one of us has a dream, a target and aim in our heart, to change the image of Hazaras in the world, and especially in Pakistan,” added the 20-year-old who last year became Pakistan’s first winner of an Asian Games medal in karate.

Many Hazaras have joined the armed forces in Pakistan, where the community’s past and future will stay rooted despite any violence, said another martial arts expert, Mubarak Ali Shan.

“We want to serve Pakistan and despite suffering tragedies and incidents, our love for peace has not diminished,” he added.