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We were dreaming (and constantly talking) about creating a 100 smart cities till the smog descended upon Delhi, and rains unleashed havoc in Chennai.

Rattled by the high and dangerous pollution levels in the national capital and comparing it with living in a “Gas Chamber”, the Delhi High Court in its observation urged both the national and city governments to present comprehensive action plans to combat it.

Down south, the locals had no doubts as to why a mix of flood waters and sewage was swilling neck-deep around parts of the state capital of 6 million people after weeks of monsoon rains culminated in a 345 mm (14-inch) cloudburst in 24 hours.

There was nowhere for the water to go because of unchecked construction activity in Chennai. Even the lake areas of the city had been converted into posh housing colonies.

Similar floods struck Mumbai in 2005, and Kashmir’s winter capital, Srinagar, last year. There, as in Chennai, construction blocked storm water channels and reduced the capacity of reservoirs designed to soak up unseasonal rains.

The sight of Chennai’s low-lying international airport with over three dozen airliners with their undercarriages covered by flood waters might lead stranded passengers to wonder whether it was built in the wrong place. Well, one runway traverses the Adyar river, which burst its banks after some of the heaviest cloudbursts in the area in over a century swamped it.

It only proved that we learnt nothing from the experience we had with Mithi river in Mumbai, a decade ago.

Mumbai, Chennai and Srinagar have gone through the nightmares already. Are the other cities any better prepared to deal with similar situations? Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, and Pune… One can only image their fate.

As the devastating Chennai floods showed, fixing today’s accident-prone metropolises may be the more pressing task ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has grand designs to build 100 futuristic ‘smart’ cities soon.

Hopefully, the concerns in face of a natural disaster don’t fizzle out in a smoke.

Haven’t we been warned enough!

-- Editor

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