Poor planning

Poor planning
Huts and shanties are submerged in flood waters in Chennai, India, 02 December 2015Image copyrightEPA
Image caption Much of Chennai has grown without a plan and with no regard to water flows

The recent floods in Houston and Mumbai, and the December 2015 floods in Chennai are previews of what a disaster could look like when climate change and ill-advised land-use change collide.

All three cities are economic powerhouses in their own right. All three have prioritised unbridled growth and urbanisation over caution and better sense. All have paid a heavy price for their choices.

None seems to have learnt any lessons beyond perhaps treating disastrous flooding as the new normal. This failure to learn may have more to do with who suffers and who gains from the choices made rather than an inability to learn.

To cope with increasing population – nearly two million extra residents added since 2000 – Houston has spread concrete over coastal prairie that used to absorb the rain, according to the Economist magazine. Media investigations reveal that since 2010, Harris Country has allowed more than 8,600 buildings to be constructed on a century-old floodplain.

In India, Chennai’s story is particularly telling about how governments beholden to an unhelpful growth logic actively make a bad situation worse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *