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Posted on: 14-12-15
WMC care hands in flood affected Chennai

Disaster situations are quiet quick and unexpected situations, caused to a larger population, putting them in the state of helplessness and needy of external support to recover from the state. Disasters can be of natural or man-made origins. Experts from the field believe and prove with research evidence that most of the so called natural disasters of the present world are being induced by the uncontrolled ways of man himself.

The Chennai disaster is also not an exemption in this regard. Chennai was called the land of lakes. Statistics shows that there existed more than 1000 lakes and still higher number of marshy fields in and around Chennai. Unpredictable growth of the city in an unplanned manner devastated and wiped out all these indigenous water reservoirs within a short span of time, developing all such lands in to high raise mansions and residential complexes. Excess of rain was only one among the causative factors of the present disaster. When it clubbed together with a set of other factors like lack of drainage and permanently closed water passages like small streams connecting the lakes, the rain proved out to be sufficient enough to wash out Chennai.

Every city will have a set of adjacent villages which are called the suburbs and another group of people, who are bound to move away from the city; the victims of urban push factor. Chennai in this regard is showing tremendous figures. It has 5 adjacent districts to add to its so called victims list of urbanisation. The figures remain huge because the growth of the city is tremendously high.

Every media, helping hands and service organisations as well as the government has been focussing just on Chennai and trying to estimate the losses within the city limits. The collateral damage of the disaster would be complete only if the adjacent districts are also included in the assessment. When striving to bring the water levels down, the city reopened the maximum number of closed water ways and bunds and pumped out without any concern about the lives of people around. This led to persistent floods that washed out 5 adjacent districts; without giving them even the chance to pack up and move to the relief camps. They were quiet ignorant of what was being in store to them since all the services were revolving round Chennai and not even a single alarm sounded in their alert.

Another thing was happening parallel to this act of injustice. The lignite quarries, which have been functioning in kadaloor district has been pumping out the water from their quarries to the manmade lakes of kadaloor district; which are of immense storage capacity. This district is only 8 feet above MSL and all the residential areas are situated in still lower regions; below the bunds of these lakes. When the quarries went on pumping out even during persistent rain, the bund broke in many places, wiping out all the villages of the district.

The way how people respond to such state always remain unpredictable since the psychological impact exerted by the situation upon individuals, families and groups will be in highly varying levels. Even when remaining in a state of being in need of support, the affected population must not be underestimated for their capacities to recover from the disaster damages. Those who render helping hands would be looking to provide things which are perceived to be of use from their world view; seeing and analysing the situation in their own understanding and thereby defining its solutions based solely on their own need assessments. This need not be the real need of the affected population and chances are high that such helping acts made from assessment of the situation without the participation of the community get misunderstood and summarily rejected by the service users; irrespective of the quality and quantity of services being provided.

So, there has to be a basic set of assumptions when starting with a disaster relief task; which should not be rigid and policy bound. It should be free enough to the level of a working strategy. What could be defined from the service provider’s world view are the availability of time, money and materials. The need of service users must not be assessed without their right participation and direct involvement. This is highly relevant in ensuring that whatever services/materials provided works towards their empowerment by bringing in them; the awareness about what they have and what they lack. Through assessment and prioritising, people could be made with increased levels of awareness on what they could develop with their own effort and what external supports are unavoidable. The best way to work is to build upon the strengths of the service users; identifying their strengths motivating and empowering them to change by themselves for sustainable growth; keeping external help up to the possible minimum level possible. Emotional support by listening to them, not asking anything helps a lot in ventilating their feelings. This helps to bring down elevated levels of frustration, agony, anxiety and thereby bringing them down to the level of reality to accommodate the facts.

Aries group has approved one lakh rupee from the CSR fund gathered after the Nepal flood to World Medical Council for Chennai relief activities. WMC team reached the field office for flood relief activities, jointly opened by Caritas and SAMSSS at Villupuram District, near Vikravandi toll plaza (150kms from Chennai towards Selam). WMC joined their field assessment team which was leaving towards Chengelpet and participated in impact assessment conducted in two adjacent villages till noon. WMC was also associated in the disbursement of relief kits provided by the field office and distributed relief kits and documented it.WMC team spend five days in Chennai for the disaster relief activities including funding the needy for restoring the mud huts destroyed in flood. Plastic sheets and other building props were given to them.

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