The December 2015 flood is a significant event in Chennai’s water history. Not only did this unprecedented event cause significant damage to life and property, bringing the city to a standstill for almost a week, it also put the spotlight on the need for better and more coordinated water management. The recognition of this need was amplified in the subsequent years when Chennai faced a succession of disasters namely, Cyclone Vardha in 2016 and severe drought thereafter until recently (2019), and is likely to become more critical with aggravated risks due to climate change.
Indeed, Chennai’s state of water drifts between two extremes – floods and droughts and the region’s vast network of tanks, lakes and rivers have historically played a critical role in managing these extremes. However, due to rampant and unplanned urbanisation, very few of around 3600 water bodies that once dotted the region, exist today. Restoration of water bodies has emerged as an important climate change adaptation strategy which can help build resilience to frequent floods and droughts. Yet, presence of multiple actors and, need for robust and comprehensive methodology to guide restoration on the ground is limiting the extent of impact and hindering long term sustainability of these initiatives in Chennai.
Therefore, this project aims to to initiate a program to support more scientific and systematic wetland restoration efforts across Chennai and possibly beyond. Through the development of a “Wetland Restoration-Training Handbook” that demystifies the science behind restoration whilst ensuring necessary guidance on the right scientific methods to follow, we hope to conduct a hands-on “Wetland Restoration – Training Workshop” targeting interested citizen welfare associations, industry and government representatives involved or likely to be involved in wetland restoration programs. We hope that this workshop will be the first amongst a series of such interactions that we can organize in Chennai and other Indian cities in the future as the learning will be largely applicable to wetland restoration efforts across the country.