A PIL filed in the Madras High Court Thursday sought action against Tamil Nadu government officials responsible for the delayed and unannounced release of a large quantity of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir. The petition filed by businessman-activist Rajiv Rai also demanded a probe into factors that resulted in the flooding of Chennai by a high-powered committee headed by a former judge of the high court or Supreme Court.
The petition said it was the release of a huge quantity of excess water from Chembarambakkam reservoir on December 1 that was responsible for the unprecedented flooding of Chennai. “If one studies the levels of water in the various catchment tanks on a daily basis, one can see that the reservoirs had much greater inflow than outflow right through November 2015. Some Standard Operating Procedures ought to have been in place whereby water was let off from Chembarambakkam and other reservoirs in stages and not held back till the fateful night of December 1, 2015,” the petition said.
Noting that the quantity of water released — 39,000 cusecs — was the highest ever recorded, the petition said the flood warning was issued only at midnight on December 1, and it did not serve the purpose as most people were either unaware of the warning or asleep. The petition alleged that state Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan waited for three days after the Public Works Department (PWD) wrote to him on November 29 to release water from the Chembarambakkam reservoir.
“The chief secretary, even though he was well aware of the reports that there was going to be heavy downpour for a few more days, didn’t direct the release of the water when he received the warning from PWD. The said act of the chief secretary and other officials is willful and resulted in loss of over 280 lives and caused damage to property… Court should form an independent committee to investigate the matter and punish the officials for failure to perform their duty, as it amounted to nothing short of manslaughter,” the PIL said.