The recent news of flooding in Chennai has provoked a lot of thinkers in India, which resulted in prolific writing in newspapers and media coverage. And why not? The incidence was of that magnitude. General conclusion drawn by people on the subject was the lack of urban planning. I will not completely agree with this. As I wonder whether it was lack of planning or lack of implementation, as DP’s are prepared by all cities. Though, I would like to question this as well. Lack of implementation will exist only if the person doesn’t know what to implement.
Most of the times the development process or trends are controlled by politicians or developer lobbies. Both these are notorious for influencing the government for their personal gains. Unfortunately our urban managers / commissioner (IAS officers) are not trained urban specialists, they are in fact trained administrators, which I have expressed in my earlier writings.

I think now it’s time for the government to think that our IAS officers / commissioners have to undergo special training in urban planning. Though they are capable enough of taking right decisions, but if the briefing is wrong by the support staff, right decision will be taken for wrong situation. They need to be trained as urban specialist. Almost all the Municipal Corporations (forget about Municipal Councils) don’t have qualified urban planners and architects to facilitate the implementation of Development Plans and building regulations (by-laws).

To fix the broken cities of today, I wonder how far the government can go. It’s better that first we de-accelerate the speed of rampart development by improving the skills of implementers, so that they are not influenced by the politicians or the developer lobby. Municipal Corporations of all major cities should first list areas of intervention that needs to be controlled / guided, then carry out Human Skill Audit of its employees, so that duties will match with skills.

Cities are complicated systems. Here the word System is important. If there is an intervention in one system and retrofitting is proposed, one has to look at its relationship with other systems that exist. The situation has to be seen in perspective. For example, while proposing FSI, one has to look into the wind direction experienced by the city. High FSI will result in high buildability or tall structures. And these structures should not block the wind flow in other areas, maintaining the natural ventilation of the city.

At the end of it, let us acknowledge that managing cities is a serious job and it takes special skills to do so. If the government does not have the necessary skill set, it can hire them or take them on contract basis.

Chennai Flooding: What went wrong?