Chennai floods: Top 6 lessons for the real estate sector


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chennai floods

The recent floods in Chennai have brought to the fore, the issues of depleting water bodies, poor civic planning and ambitious urban development. 99acres analyses the lessons that realty needs to learn from the Chennai floods.

Natural disasters have often acted like wake up calls for the world. Earthquakes, landslides, forest fires or floods are incidents that shake us up from our stupor and shatter our delusions of safety and control. Industry experts unanimously agree that the recent destruction in Chennai has sounded an alarm for the rest of the country.

Based on feedback from real estate industry stalwarts, 99acres shares the top six takeaways from the Chennai floods:

Save the water bodies

The most important lesson that the recent floods in Chennai have taught us is that we have to stop compromising on precautions to promote development. Development should not disrupt the natural reservoirs and inlet to rivers, lakes and other water bodies as real estate and infrastructure encroaching on water bodies are major contributors to water logging and flood-like situations. Cities like Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore have lost a lot of their lakes and wetlands which makes them vulnerable to floods. A little more than average rainfall can cause a long-term damage to the city’s realty landscape.

Projects should be  ‘in sync’ with nature

Niranjan Hiranandani, MD, Hiranandani Communities asserts that the most important thing for any developer while planning a project is to ensure that it is in sync with nature. Calamities, whether floods, landslides or earthquakes, cause the maximum destruction particularly when development does not consider the geography of the area. “It is the moral responsibility of every developer to monitor the environment while planning a project, to understand the extent of damage it may put on the structures in the worst case scenario” says Kumar Bharat, Director, BCC Infrastructures Pvt Ltd.

Ravindra Pai, MD, Century Real Estate also stresses on the importance of developmental controls such as:

  • Minimum fill levels for land and minimum floor levels for buildings to reduce how often people and property are exposed to flooding.
  • Building regulations to reduce the potential for structural damage during floods.
  • Regulations affecting the way a land is developed to ensure buildings allow easy evacuation of people to safe areas.

Improve water drainage systems

An effective storm water drainage system, which is well-connected to main streams and cleaned regularly to ensure clear flow, is paramount to prevent such disasters from happening in the first place. Pai states that while civic authorities need to give high priority to the issues of drainage and sewage management throughout the city, rain water harvesting systems and efficient drainage network need to be present in individual projects too. Deep Kantawala, Group CFO & Head - Investment Advisory, ICS Group adds that wherever required, new reservoirs must be created to hold excess water during heavy rainfall and flood-like situations.

Better garbage management

Water logging and flood-like situations have often been attributed to plastic-clogged drains. “The purpose of a well-connected drainage system can be very easily thwarted by poor garbage management,” says Sourabh Bansal, MD, Magicrete Building Solutions. Even in Chennai, the problem of shrinking wetlands was compounded by inefficient garbage disposal, where garbage was dumped into water bodies and flood plains.

Enhance green cover

Several reports over the past few years have been lamenting the cities’ transformation into concrete jungles which means rain water cannot be absorbed by the earth. Developers agree that ignoring the importance of green cover can have far-reaching implications for cities. Bansal explains that planting trees allows water to drain into the ground naturally and also impedes the flow of flood water. He stresses on the importance of open land, green cover and functional canal systems which are not encroached by concrete structures. Hence, developers need to aggressively factor in the greenery quotient of their projects right at the planning stage.

Proper infrastructure maintenance

Lack of proper infrastructure maintenance is one of the major reasons why the country is ill-prepared to handle disasters like flood. Suresh Gogia, MD, Ascent Group, says that it is important to create a strategic plan of response to identify and help the most vulnerable and severely affected areas once such disasters strike. Kantawala urges the government to ensure that infrastructure like fire stations, hospitals and disaster management cells be upgraded in line with the new developments in the city’s real estate. Hence, if real estate is developing in the far-flung areas of the city, these emergency services should be available to the remote zones too. He says, “It is not only lack of infrastructure or resources, but also the absence of a structured approach in dealing with calamities which results in hardship to people and collateral damages to physical property and infrastructure assets.” 

Unless we acknowledge the problems and impact that natural calamities can have on the growth of a city such events will continue to wreak havoc across the country.

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