Chennai – A once sleepy fishing village on the eastern coast of India has come a long way from the days of Fort St.George. The political capital of southern state of Tamil Nadu, this automotive, IT and manufacturing hub is in a grip of explosive urbanization and among the top 5 mega polis of the nation.
Nov-Dec 2015 saw majority of the southern parts of the city under water due to the havoc wreaked by the abnormal heavy (highest in the past 100 years) rainfall. Three river systems the Adyar, Cooam and Kosasthaliyar traverse through the city before draining into the Bay of Bengal. Majority of the flood damage was attributed to R.Adyar the southern most of the three rivers.
In the aftermath of the back-breaking urban floods, Navigem, as a platform partner of the 100 RC initiative participated in the Chennai Urban Flood Resilience Summit, in Feb 2016. As Data partners, we were scouting for data points that could help provide sufficient early-warning in the case of floods in addition to learn from the water experts of Netherlands, USA that have adapted to an urban life with water as an ally rather than an adversary.
A wide spectrum of expertise from urban planning, conservation, governance, technology was represented by a collage of local and international experts, the leading names in their respective fields to pitch in towards a resilient Chennai.
Like in any other city especially in the developing world, Chennai too is plagued by the unplanned, unsustainable nature of urbanization that further exacerbated the flood situation perhaps linked to a larger system of global climate change. The flood plains of the rivers have been extensively encroached upon and to make matters worse the Pallikarnyi marsh area (around 4 – 5000 Hec contiguous), a traditional wetland ecosystem has been woefully compromised to little around 600hec of patches of lacustrine deteriorating ecosystem. A silver lining being around 200-300 hec of marshland has been recovered and restored to its past glory mainly due to the tireless work of local ecologists.
These marsh lands, once the sponges to capture and store the excess water carried by R.Adyar through a network of lakes (now a broken chain) had played a stabilizing role in preventing floods on the one hand and prevent the salt-water incursion on the other.
Now Chennai is faced with a dichotomous situation, a city reeling and recovering from floods thirsting for potable drinking water. A series of brainstorming activities under the aegis of IIT Chennai and Greater Municipal Corporation, Chennai resulted in emergence of innovative solutions to re-introduce water to the life of the city, the art it had lost over time perhaps due to short-sighted lopsided emphasis on unplanned urbanization.
Like the quintessential Salt in a sumptuous South Indian meal, no solution can be effected without Data – understand the status quo, quantify the fluidic, evolve plans, monitor for a sustained impact thus paving for suitable course correction towards dynamic improvisation; Navigem with the Data prowess contributed our bit to the cause of transforming and adapting Data Sciences to solve real-world issues.

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