Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Chennai Floods, Water Management and the wisdom of the Madras Presidency Administrators: The Buckingham Canal

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books
The recent devastation caused by the phenomenal floods in the city of Madras caused large scale loss of life and property. The entire city was almost submerged by the surging waters and parts of the city, particularly along the watercourses were significantly inundated. To make matters worse nearly 34,000 cu secs of water was released from the Chennambbakam Tank without prior warning as the storage capacity of the tank was reaching the high-water mark. There was a fear of the tank breaching and so water was released and the nearby Puzhal Tank breached leading to flooding in Madipakkam and Pallikaranai. Only people living in high rise buildings were comparatively safe as the ground floor was completely submerged in large swathes of the city. Out of the nearly 3000 water bodies documented in the City of Chennai, more than half have been encroached by builders and the rapid unplanned urbanization of Chennai has led to the decline of the environment and the recent floods had demonstrated that Chennai was living on borrowed time. It must be clear to everyone that had the Buckingham Canal been allowed to function the large scale floods could have been avoided. The rulers of Independent India deliberately neglected the Buckingham Canal because they were enamored of dams which were considered the "temples of modern India". The blind rush toawrds industrialization resulted in the Buckingham canal being neglected and the 786 km canal has all but disappeared. Even in the 2001 Tsunami the vestige of the one kilometer wide canal which stretched from Markanam to Kakinada in the East Godavari District absorbed the shock of the waves and thereby protected part of the coastline. The worst damage was in the areas south of the canal.The history of the canal began in 1817 when a 11 kilomwter canal was constructed from Madras to Ennore. Gradually the canal was extended to Pulicat and during the devastating famine of 1877-79 the canal was constructed as famine relief work. Historical documents show that in the late 19th century rice was sent from Godavari region to Madras along the canal. As the cost of transportation by water was always cheaper, Madras as Chennai was then known, received its grain due to the canal. The canal was a life line for the people of the region. Independence meant that the administrative jurisdiction of the canal was fragmented and the whole project was allowed to decay. The canal was joined to the Adyar River and thereby a natural system of drainage came into existence. Had the Adyar River been dredged and the flow of water kept without major impediment, the damage in the recent floods could have been avoided. The Buckingham Canal took nearly a century of effort and Independent India as a nation run by corrupt people without wisdom allowed this great feat of engineering to decay.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Donald Trump and his Muslim exclusion comment: Why this fuss?

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomavy and Books Donald Trump, the Republican Presidential candidate, seems to have outrage the liberal public opinion with his comment that people from Muslim countries should be barred from entering the USA until America leadership figure out "what the hell is happening". This comment during the course of an election rally ought not to have created such a huge international controversy. What he says for getting votes from his constituents is of concern only to the US citizens, I am commenting on this statement only to expose the hypocrisy of his opponents. USA has practiced racially profiled exclusion ever since the establishment of the first settlements in New England. There was racially sanctioned slavery for over 300 years and even the Civil War was fought not to liberate the slaves but to defend the Union and the abolition of slavery as a war aim was proclaimed only as a strategic move in order to make the plantation workers/slaves rise in revolt. Generations of White historians have interpreted American History keeping the ideological objectives of USA in mind. During the COld War period USA was the leader of the "free world" as though the rest of the world was "unfree".Now the rhetoric of social inclusion is dominant and yet no one seems concerned that USA follows a policy of excluding the Spanish speaking Mexican from their territories and except for cheap labour the Spanish speaking people are not valued for anything else. No outrage over the proposed legislation which would identify illegal immigrants and repatriate them back to their home countries, breaking up families exactly like the slave laws once did. My purpose is not to suggest that USA IS SOME KIND OF A DEMON. It is only to put some perspective on Trump's remarks. USA has a system in which the Federal Government is the only empowered agency to regulate entry into the US and the adherence to International Law is questionable. We need only to recollect the instances of the "extra ordinary rendition", the attempted assassination of foreign leaders, the trumped up charges against Saddam Hussein and armed intervention in Libya are only some of the more egregious examples of US banditry. To top all this USA had the gall to put our Hon'ble Prime Minster on the exclusion list and ever one kept quiet. What Donald Trump has said comes from the same mind set that led to all the instances I have cited above. Historically too USA has imprisoned its own population in concentration camps on mere suspicion during World War II and still no reparations have been given to the interned population of Hawaii and California. It is sheer madness to condemn Donald Trump. If he is elected he has everyright to exclude whole populations on the grounds of national security and USA has been following this policy.