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Chennai disaster: It's time to decrowd our metro cities
Chennai is practically drowned due to unprecedented rains, whose intensity broke all records of last 100 years. The pathetic condition of people belonging to fourth largest city of India is inexpressible. The rescue and relief work is quite impossible at the moment despite all out efforts by governments, various organizations and defense forces because the continuous heavy rain is making it infeasible.

Electricity, phone lines and all other communication facilities are severely hit. People are stranded at many places empty stomach. Overall it's a grim situation and rightly Chennai is declared as a disaster zone for the moment.

Tamil Nadu government which is helpless at the moment cites the unprecedented rains for this disaster, which also looks as an excuse for its unpreparedness to tackle this nature's fury. Is TN government right? I don't think so. Before this tragedy, in 2005 Mumbai was marooned disastrously.

Delhi is nearly choking due to severe air pollution. Kolkata, which is yet to face a serious natural disaster always appear to be vulnerable to natural calamity. In 2009 when cyclonic storm 'Aila' hit Kolkata with a moderate intensity (wind speed around 80 KMPH with gales of 100 KMPH, Aila mainly hit Bangladesh severely), the city almost collapsed. Just imagine if a cyclone with an intensity like 'Super-Cyclone' in 1999 or that of Phailin of 2013 had hit Kolkata what would habe been the scale of damage. I am an Odia, who is well accustomed to the fury of high intensity cyclonic storms. My assessment is that if such a cyclone hit Kolkata, it would definitely kill millions of people apart from destroying the city of Kolkata.

Point is very simple, all four prime metro cities of India despite being considered most developed areas in India are now vulnerable to natural calamities, which may lead to catastrophic consequences. No doubt each metro city has its own reasons for this vulnerability. For example Chennai or Mumbai are facing super-floods due to choking of the natural drainage systems or inadequate municipal drain capacity.

Delhi's killer air is due to heavy pollution emanating from large scale vehicular traffic, large scale burning of farm lands in and around Delhi (areas including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and UP), industrial pollutions etc.

Kolkata's main problem is lack of infrastructure compared to its population. It appears that development of Kolkata has almost stopped since British left this place as their capital. The condition of all buildings, poles or other infrastructures are so weak, if a 1999 like super-cyclone hit Kolkata it would fly away the entire city.

Despite different reasons for vulnerability of these four metro cities (and practically other metro or urban centers), the common reason is ever increasing population in these cities, which is inversely proportional to the capacity. If this single reason is focused one can find many of its harmful bi-products that make the cities vulnerable. For example to accommodate this huge population one has to build houses, apartments etc. To give them job, big offices have to be built.

As this working population increases so the slums too increases. Now to accommodate everyone, one has to encroach (legally or illegally) the areas that are naturally required for drainage of rain/storm water. The 'Sukhi' or 'Mithi' river of Mumbai is consumed in this process of developing a concrete jungle in Mumbai. Similarly many lakes inside Chennai had vanished. We often hear 'salt lake' of Kolkata, has anybody seen this lake in recent time (at least in our generation)? No everything had been consumed.

The increased population had to use increased vehicular traffic that results in to pollution. Delhi has the highest registration of motor vehicles in a day and accommodates vehicles from highly urbanized centers like Gurgaon, Noida etc. Kolkata too had to accommodate large populations in its limited infrastructures thus compromising the capacity of the city to withstand the force of the nature.

Thus the very simple method to avoid nature's fury is de-crowding the cities. Method is simple but is it simple to implement? I don't think it's impossible either. But before that let's understand why these cities are being crowded.

Simple reason is lack of infrastructures like health care, educational institution, road connectivity, communication system, electricity in the non-city areas (rural or semi urban centers). In this modern era electricity, phones etc are no more luxury rather essential requirements of people. Also children's education or health care are prime concern for every parent now. These factors in fact incite a mad race of people to the metro cities.

There people's first aim is to get a house by hook or crook, not bothering about the capacity or environment of the metros. (However once settled they again start complaining about various other problems with authorities). Search for job, attraction to modern living or crisis in farm sector also force the poor people to move to metro cities that forms a large size of slums creating burden over the metro cities.

Thus to de-crowd the cities, governments has to focus on the real reason. Instead of pumping money in increasing further infrastructure in the metros, it needs to invest in its rural or semi urban areas. Quality schools, colleges or other institutions must be established in these areas. Advanced hospitals with quality doctors is not the only requirement for rural or semi urban areas rather it's a constitutional obligation of any government to its people be it from rural or urban areas.

Road connectivity is another requirement. Apart from that semi or medium industries that generate employment particularly related to farm sector would stop migration of poor people (basically farm laborers) to the metros. Indian agrarian sector is another sector that is largely ignored by successive governments and at present is in a precarious state. It requires urgent attention from the governments as it can generate huge employments with minimum investments.

Thus the remedy to metro's vulnerability lies at infrastructural development in rural or semi urban areas. If these developments are taken urgently with honest intent, not only the mad race to metro cities will stop, but also reverse migration from metros to villages will start. Ask any city-man, he would prefer to spend his retired life in a village atmosphere provided the village has all infrastructures nearby because of peaceful environment.

Will the governments or organisations focus on this subject of 'de-crowding cities'?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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