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Looking Back: Chennai Floods


Give2Asia reports back to the public on all of the projects funded in response to disasters.

The 2015 floods in Chennai were the worst in the region’s history, leaving almost two million people displaced and causing over US$3 billion worth of damage. Funds raised by Give2Asia’s disaster relief efforts contributed to two different initiatives focused on meeting unmet needs and helping community-led organizations responding to the disaster.

Disaster Strikes: Climate Change & Unprecedented Waters
From November to December 2015, flooding overwhelmed Chennai and other cities in southern India. An extraordinarily intense El Nino led to the marked rise in temperatures in the Indian Ocean, which triggered a downpour of 34 times the daily average — 11 inches of rain per day. Scientists have directly attributed this disaster to climate change.

The impacts of the flooding were exacerbated by inadequate building development and disaster preparedness, such that hospitals, colleges, and airports were forced to close. Over three million families’ homes suffered partial or total damage, leaving approximately 1.8 million people displaced and an undetermined number dead. The government was too overwhelmed to provide for the basic needs of displaced peoples who moved into refugee camps, not to mention longer-term recovery and care. Other consequences from the floods included a huge spike in prices of basic needs resources, and billions of dollars lost across real estate, automobile, and technology industries. The flooding also exposed the region to many water- and vector-borne diseases and put a great medical burden on recovery operations.

Chennai was declared an official disaster area on December 2, 2015. This area was a particularly important source of need because it was conspicuously under-reported in the international community, despite being acknowledged as one of the greatest natural disasters in 2015.

Give2Asia supported a community of donors who stepped up to provide support in this critical moment of need.

Actions Taken: Recovery Projects Funded Through Give2Asia
Generous contributions from the Give2Asia donors funded two projects in response to the Chennai floods.

Project 1: Rehabilitation of Flood Victims 2016 Grant
This grant funded the Good Life Centre‘s support of flood-affected families during the short- and longer-term recovery period.

This project was originally intended to support 230 families. After the organizers began collecting data from the community and realized the extent of need, they decided to increase their reach. The Good Life Centre provided 600 families with kitchen vessels, kerosene stoves, and food supplies. Further, the Centre rebuilt 18 hut houses, provided sewing machines to 24 widows and impoverished women, and acquired educational materials for 160 children. With these measures, the Centre made utmost use of its funding to care for as many flood-affected families as possible with both immediate provisions and tools for longer-term self-support.

The Good Life Centre focused their efforts on the most affected areas in suburban Chennai: Tambaram, Mudichur, Varadharajapuram, Perungalathur, and Kishkinta. Workers found that families here were largely abandoned by their local governments, and that women in particular had to fight tirelessly for basic food and clothing. After the flood, many people not only lost their homes and belongings but also their jobs. Good Life Centre did their best to provide tools to help people begin earning income again.

Below, see photos of flood-affected families gathering to register with the Good Life Centre, receive relief supplies, and celebrate their Independence Day in the process.

Project 2: Rebuilding the Rain-Damaged Gharial Enclosure Grant 2016

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust / Centre for Herpetology established this project to restore the damaged walls of Pen 13 in the Crocodile Bank in Chennai.

Among the many valuable structures damaged during the flooding was the wall of the gharial enclosure, which houses eight of the most unique animals at the institution, Gavialis Gangeticus. There are only 200 adult gharial alive in the wild today. The Crocodile Bank protects these critically endangered creatures while serving as a valuable research site to study their breeding and biology. It is also a tourist spot, welcoming about 450,000 visitors per year.

The damaged wall created a danger for the animals as well as visitors. Funds from this grant were used entirely to purchase construction materials to rebuild the enclosure, marking the start of a larger revitalization plan directed by the Central Zoo Authority. The previous wall did not comply with its new requirements, and the funding has now enabled the Madras Bank to rebuild according to strict new regulations. This initiative has rebuilt the enclosure with enough security to withstand a future flood, and is likely to endure for another 50 years.

This project has enabled Madras Crocodile Bank Trust to continue its environmental efforts in the conservation, research, and education of this rare Indian species.

See a collection of images of the new gharial enclosure wall below:

Final Disaster Overview
The 2015 floods in southern India devastated the lives of millions of people in the region. Despite the low coverage that this event received in international media, Give2Asia’s network recognized the need and contributed substantial funds to recovery efforts. Funds raised were utilized both to support the long-term recovery of affected families and to aid environmental conservation efforts.

We hope that ongoing investments in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation will reduce the impacts of future disasters in these and other vulnerable regions.

There are many projects in need of funding which focus entirely on disaster preparedness. Please review them through our Disaster Preparedness Catalog and consider funding one of these initiatives to contribute to the future well-being of vulnerable regions in Asia.

Resources

Give2Asia Disaster Preparedness Program
Good Life Centre
Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Potarazu, Sreedhar. “Chennai Floods a Climate Change Wake-Up Call for World.” CNN. Cable News Network, 19 Dec. 2015.
Kaliamoorthy, Ilankumaran et al. “Safe Emergency Evacuation of a Tertiary Care Hospital during the ‘once in a Century’ Floods in Chennai, India.” Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine: Peer-reviewed, Official Publication of Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine 20.2 (2016): 104–108. PMC. Web. 26 July 2016.
Fernandes, Edmond, Homolata Borah, and Soumya Shetty. “Mainstream disaster health as a policy priority: experiences from Chennai floods and a cross sectional study during disaster relief phase.” International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health 3.6 (2016), 1589-1592.

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