Vijay Pingale: This man’s advice would have helped Chennai avoid flood fury – Zee News

Vijay Pingale

Vijay Maruti PingaleThree days after he named the defaulting road contractors, Pingale was shunted out of the Corporation of Chennai and moved to the Industries Department as Joint Secretary.

Chennai would have avoided the flood fury to a large extent had the authorities there paid heed to the warnings of an honest IAS officer, who had to pay a huge price for acting against  local contractors for their botched up road work in the city a few days ago.

As per reports, Dr Vijay Pingale, Joint Commissioner in Works Department of Corporation of Chennai, had acted heavily against the powerful contractor lobby for poorly laid roads just few days before incessant rains hit the state, later triggering a flood-like situation.

Pingale, an MBBS graduate and IAS officer of the 2004 batch, had undertaken several important initiatives in his 16 months tenure as the Joint Commissioner in the corporation.

Due to his fearless approach towards the defaulters, mostly in the matters related to road quality, this top official had earned a reputation for being highly competent and scrupulous.

On November 11, Pingale made public the names of nine contractors who were asked to reimburse the civic body Rs 2 crore for repairs the corporation carried out on stretches laid by them.

Vijay Maruti Pingale IASPingale had also promised to name other contractors for poor work and said the total penalties were likely to rise.

Pingale’s actions, however, irked the powerful contractor lobby who started building pressure on the political establishment to shunt him at the earliest.

“The penalties infuriated the contractors. Pingale insisted on accountability and never buckled to political pressure. This obviously did not go down well with some people,” a corporation engineer was quoted as saying in a report by The Hindu.

Another official who attended a monsoon review meeting headed by minister S. P. Velumani last week said the minister and other bureaucrats had taunted Pingale for being a straight arrow.

“It appears that the minister and senior officials had then decided that Pingale had to go,” he was quoted as saying.

“It was because of his expertise that we were able to limit water-logging when it rained,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity.

“If he remained in the corporation for two more years or so, he could have truly helped it move forward,” he added.

Consequently, just three days after he named the defaulting contractors, Pingale was shunted out of the Corporation of Chennai and moved to the Industries Department as Joint Secretary.

Pingale’s transfer came as no surprise for his associates who had the inclination of something unpleasant happening to the IAS officer soon.

Pingale’s transfer had affected work on ambitious corporation projects such as a pedestrian plaza in T-Nagar, state-of-the art public toilets for the city and a bicycle-sharing project to reduce vehicular congestion, not to mention his abortive attempt to give the city better roads by making contractors accountable for their work.

In hushed tone, corporation officials say inferior works by contractors, who had formed cartel to bag contracts from the corporation, use of poor quality materials to lay roads and massive corruption at various levels in the civic body had left the city’s roads potholed and broken with the first monsoon rain.

Now, when Chennai is slowly limping back to normalcy after days of flood fury, the officials of the corporation regret the day when Pingale was transferred for attempting to bring more transparency in  the civic body. – Zee News, 4 December 2015

Saidai Duraisamy

S. P. Velumani

Ripon Building Chennai

 

4 Responses

  1. Timings of High tide and Low tides which occur in sea levels, bear a direct reference on release of water from inland urban lakes in port towns like Chennai. All ULBs officials ought to be aware of this info, to be given daily news paper etc.. for the officials to act at appropriate times at each day. etc..

  2. Chembarambakkam Tank Flood Gates

    Delay in decision to open sluice gates caused flood of trouble – Times of India – TNN – Dec 9, 2015

    CHENNAI: The flood that ravaged Chennai last week was not a natural disaster, but one caused by the state bureaucracy’s failure to regulate release of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir (lake) in the outskirts of the city.

    Those privy to developments in the state secretariat during the last week of November say that in the wake of international weather forecast agencies predicting 500mm of rain for Chennai on December 1 and 2, public works department (PWD) officials had advised the PWD secretary and other senior bureaucrats on November 26 to bring down the water level in the reservoir from 22ft to below 18ft so the lake could absorb heavy inflow four days later. There was not much rain between November 26 and 29 and Adyar river, too, which originates from this lake, had very little water.

    The proposal to release lake water was caught in bureaucratic red tape. Sources said the PWD secretary waited for chief secretary’s nod to open the sluice gates—and whose nod the chief secretary was waiting for still remains a mystery.In effect, the disaster caused in Punjab by heavy release of water from the Bhakra Nangal dam two years ago was repeated in Chennai.

    Orders to open the Chembarambakkam sluice gates—rather flood gates—were not received till the city received was pounded with rain and the reservoir started overflowing. “The state administration maintained that the release from the reservoir into Adyar river was only 33,500 cusecs (cubic feet per second; 1 cubic ft is 28.3 litres of water), which is the maximum capacity of the gates, from December 1 night onwards. But the actual release was more than double that, and nobody has any idea how much it was because water was overflowing from Chembarambakkam after the reservoir reached its full capacity of 24 feet. The problem was compounded as Athannur lake breached, releasing about 5,000 cusecs into the Adyar,” said a highly placed source in PWD.

    In effect, Adyar was carrying more than one lakh cusecs of water on December 2 and 3, said a senior IAS official, who was coordinating rescue operations. “The city has paid the price for having a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t have the guts to act on their own.We were lucky that the reservoir, despite overflowing, did not breach,” he said.

    “Flooding of Chennai and suburbs could have been averted by better management of water release,” said Madras Institute of Development Studies professor S Janakarajan. The administration should not have viewed Chembarambakkam in isolation. The lake and Adyar river are connected to about 200 tanks, he said. Even if 33,500 cusecs had been released from Chembarambakkam, by the time the water reached Saidapet, it would have swelled to 60,000 cusecs because of additional flow from other water bodies enroute. The administration failed to gauge this and hapless people paid the price for it, he explained.

    Janakarajan said the government should view all water bodies, roughly 3,600 of them, in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts as one watershed as they are hydrologically connected to one another. “If the government cleans up all those water bodies, they can hold about 30 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water.Moreover, it will also prevent flooding in future,” he said.

    The magnitude of the disaster was more because there was no advisory issued to people living in low-lying areas, warning them that their homes could get flooded.To add to the misery, Chennai city police officers were instructed to keep their cell phones switched off (much before mobile phone towers went down) and carry out all communications only through wireless sets. Hence, people in distress could not seek help by reaching out to officials in their locality.

    TOI’s repeated efforts to get responses from the chief secretary and PWD secretary went in vain.Some pertinent questions that remain unanswered are: Whose orders were the bureaucrats waiting for to open the reservoir sluices? Will anybody be held responsible for the lapses? And, at least now, will the government put a standard operating procedure in place to keep reservoirs at safe levels? Will a better system be evolved to warn people living on river banks before gates are opened?

    Washing machines on the street

    The lack of a warning about the huge discharge from Chembarambakkam reservoir not only devastated the banks of Adyar but also submerged T Nagar and its bylanes, leaving middle and low-income colonies in distress.Tonnes of food grains from grocery shops and household items, including washing machines, are on road-side dumps in every corner of the neighbourhood. Having lost items worth thousands of rupees, the residents were picking up pieces. TNN

    SEE ALSO: Chennai Floods: Modi mocked and ‘Amma’ missing in action during emergency – Malay Mail

    • Chennai Floods: Try erring Tamil Nadu officials for manslaughter, says PIL in Madras HC – A Subramani – Times of India – TNN – Dec 10, 2015

      CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu government officials responsible for the delayed, and unannounced, release of a large quantity of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir that led to loss of 280 lives must be tried for manslaughter, a PIL filed in the Madras high court has said.

      Also, the factors that resulted in the flooding of Chennai must be probed by a high-powered committee headed by an ex-judge of the Supreme Court or a high court, the PIL of businessman-activist Rajiv Rai said.

      Noting that release of a huge quantity of excess water from Chembarambakkam reservoir, that too by issuing a midnight flood warning, alone was responsible for the unprecedented flooding of Chennai city, the PIL said: “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 inflows than outflows right through in November 2015. Some Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 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 PIL further said: “Some experts are suggesting that it was the delayed release of water from Chembarambakkam which alone was responsible for the massive flooding which took place due to overflowing of the Adyar river to levels never seen before.”

      Pointing out that the government had said outflow of 39,000 cusecs of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir was the highest ever recorded, he said: “I had been informed that the flood warning was issued only at midnight on December 1, 2015 and it did not serve the purpose, as most of the residents were either unaware of issuance of any such warning or were asleep.”

      Citing media reports that the Public Works Department (PWD) wrote to chief secretary on November 29, 2015 for release of water from the Chembarambakkam reservoir, he said the chief secretary had slept over it for three days, and gave his consent only on midnight of December 1.

      “The chief secretary, even though he was well aware of the reports that there is going to be heavy downpour for a few more days, had ignored to perform his duty and direct release of the water when, the warning from PWD was received by him. The said act of the chief secretary and other officials is willful and resulted in loss of over 280 lives and caused colossal damage to property, possessions and livelihood of several hundreds of thousands of residents and most of them poor. This court should form an independent committee to 10 investigate this matter and punish the officials for failure to perform their duty, as it amounted to nothing short of manslaughter,” the PIL said.

      Besides a judge, the committee shall comprise government officials, technical persons, senior advocates, scientists and environmentalists, said the PIL.

      The court must direct the committee to ascertain the reasons for the flooding in Chennai, and mandate it to lay down a time-bound action plan, and finally prepare an action taken report to be submitted to the court for necessary action. All this must be done under the supervision/monitoring of the high court, said the activist.

      The Chennai floods have left nearly 280 people dead, he said, adding that schools and offices remained closed for several days, and roads were clogged leading to traffic disruptions. Communication networks too went dead for over a week.

      Blaming much of these inconvenience to flooding caused by encroachment on canal banks and river banks, besides faultily designed pavements and storm water drains, Rai said unorganised growth and lack of urban planning had resulted in flooding of roads.

      The PIL is expected to be taken up for hearing on Friday, along with another writ petition filed by Congress advocate A P Suryaprakasam.

      • Chennai Floods: Jayalalithaa, chief secretary to blame for release of 36,000 cusecs of water from Chembarambakkam lake, Stalin says – B Sivakumar – Times of India -TNN – Dec 10, 2015

        CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government should order a probe into the reason for releasing 36,000 cusecs of water from the Chembarambakkam lake on December 2 and 3 without issuing a proper warning, said DMK treasurer M K Stalin on Thursday.

        Speaking to newspersons after distributing relief materials to flood-affected people at Chintadripet here, Stalin said, ”Though international weather agencies had forecast 50cm of rainfall between December 1 and 2, the government did not take any steps to prevent flooding.”

        He said chief minister J Jayalalithaa and chief secretary K Gnanadesikan should be blamed for the sufferings of lakhs of people in the city and surrounding areas caused by the floods.

        ”Even though PWD officials informed the chief secretary that water should be released in advance, they were not able to contact him for two days. This shows everything happens only on the orders of the chief minister,” Stalin alleged.

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