Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 15, November 16-30, 2017
It is now finally out in the open. The cracks on the façade of Ripon Building are so wide that you can make them out as you go along the road. Up until now the Metro Rail, which is conducting excavations below the building, has claimed it has nothing to do with the fissures, but it may not be able to escape the reality for much longer. It is high time that this body, no matter how important its work is for the future of the city, is made to realise that development as an agenda is highly commendable but it cannot be at the cost of just about everything else.
The Corporation of Greater Chennai, which should be the most vociferous among the protesters, has chosen to keep quiet. That is quite surprising, for, after all, would you keep silent if your home was coming apart owing to a neighbour digging beneath your property? It also shows what sense of ownership the higher officials of the civic body have for their premises. Ditto the Councillors who did not turn a hair when a plaster from the ceiling of the Council Chamber began falling owing to the drilling. All that has been done is that monitors have been placed at various places in the premises to check on whether the fissures are widening.
Reports on the findings from these are allegedly being filed, but as to whether any action was ever contemplated is unknown. IIT Madras is apparently a recipient of this data, but as to what it does with it is also a secret. What is out in the open are the cracks. One of them is even now climbing up all the way to the top to the bell tower. When this tower falls, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the monitors had already predicted it.
Ripon Building has been the recipient of Rs. 23 crore for a complete restoration exercise. This is public money. The entire activity was almost complete when Metro Rail began digging in the vicinity, bringing the repair work to a halt. The allotted money, it is understood, has been more or less fully spent though with what final result is a mystery. But it is money that we as taxpayers have contributed to. It is a good indication of the way the Government works.
However, for the first time there are indications that the lower levels of officialdom in the Corporation are getting alarmed. After all, they are the people who are working in the premises throughout the day. A newspaper report dated November 12th has an official, under condition of anonymity, demanding that the data being tracked by the monitors be made public. We welcome this stance, as this is exactly what we have been demanding ever since the first cracks were noticed in the building. The cosy world of official secrecy has to be done away with.
Chennai Metro Rail has caused untold damage to the city’s heritage. The list of buildings demolished to make way for it and those endangered by it is long. Public reaction to such wanton carelessness has been muted, but now, with the symbol of the city’s civic body (Ripon Building features on the Corporation’s coat of arms and therefore is part of the city’s emblem) being affected, it is hoped that the voices of protest will rise in volume.
Government goes on green drive, unveils draft Forest Policy. The draft State Forest Policy has been formulated by the Tamil Nadu Government with 16 thrust areas. The following are the main objectives of the draft policy:
-Environmental and ecological stability
-Biodiversity, wildlife and genetic resource conservation
-Rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forests
-Coastal ecosystem conservation and management
-Forest protection for resource management and augmentation
-Sustainable forest management
-Enhancement of tree cover outside forests for livelihood security
-Water augmentation through forest conservation and integrated watershed management
-Upliftment of forest-dependent women and ensuring significant role for them in forest management
-Tribal development to ensure economic prosperity and ecological stability
When Chennai flooded in end-2015, newly developed areas such as Velachery flooded more than older parts of the city such as Mylapore. That was natural, since Velachery is among the localities that developed after the late 1990s in the southern axis radiating out of the city. It was built on a complex of low-lying wetlands, and water flowed and accumulated there.
Since the water stayed in these areas for a long time, the physical impact of the flood was higher in these areas. Water drained out of Mylapore faster. Despite that, in terms of social and economic dimensions of the recovery, Velachery was not far behind Mylapore. A team of researchers from the School of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Madras University, and ETH Zurich in Switzerland came to this conclusion after surveying residents of Mylapore and Velachery in recent months.
Extreme rain events (EREs) affect different parts of the city differently, based on land use patterns and hydrology. However, how the localities respond and recover depends on their social and economic abilities and how they improvise systems to get on top of the crisis. Together, these constitute the climate resilience of different localities. With EREs likely to become more frequent in future, an understanding on how localities coped in the past will help design interventions for the future.
Graduating from elementary needs of roti, kapda and makaan, health and education seem, today, to emerge as the next priorities in Tamil Nadu, analysing data about the State’s population. Substantially higher investment and expert design for high effectiveness on these two sectors seem to be the direction in which progress lies and not in give-aways and write-offs. Just these two projects might be enough to engage the whole five-year term for doing a good job of it. And even to win votes.
First, some background to understand the data.
The probability of India having the world’s largest population of working age by 2027, a billion strong, was recently pointed out in the Press. As it is, half the country’s population is under the age of 25. Two-thirds are less than 35. The demographic profile of the country is not uniform through all regions as fertility and longevity across regions are not uniform. Focusing on Tamil Nadu, the implications of the demographic profile for policy