Sathyamurthi's Blog

March 21, 2014

Natural disaster damage & Climate change – Correlation does not imply causation

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 4:40 am

Before I read this article why disasters cost more, I would emphatically told you climate change is causing more powerful disasters but after reading this I was nodding my head and was wondering what made me change my mind so quickly …

First a short story, I have a vivid picture of flood in Chennai in 1984 (did not recollect exact year, so used this page to guess), I did one KM walk with one of my elders cousins to watch Adyar river crest in the below area of the map. For those who are familiar with this area this a pillayar temple  right before Kasi Theater, Basically my recollection is water touched the temple but did not flood it (kind of black line)! I saw boats used to rescue folks on roads I would normally ride my bicycle and this left an deep impression in my young mind. Another reason why I remembered this well was at that time one my classmates Sundar lived in that area but I did not know where, so I left anxious thinking about him and until School reopened did not know their house flooded ground floor and even some water in first floor and he lost even some school stuff!

PariNagar

Next I was living and also running my own software consultancy in this very same area in 1996, when the next big cyclone stuck. With 1984 disaster vivid in my memory, I was following flooding news and one of the anecdotes I remembered from 1984 was they opened flood gates of Chembarambakkam lake without warning folks in low area and that is why lots of folks where caught unaware. By 1990s a huge flood wall was built along Adyar river ostensibly to prevent flooding but I instinctively knew 1984 kind of flood would mean the place I stayed would flood and everything we have would be destroyed by water. So when heard they were about to open the lake floodgates again without hesitation, I rented a mini-van moved all our belongs – Fridge/TV(we were a bunch of bachelors ) to slightly higher ground where we rented our office. All my neighbors where puzzled and maybe some even thought I was crazy (I generally come across as a bit reckless person but I am very pragmatic and cover my risks)! Guess what – River Adyar flooded again the same night and the place I rented was 7-8 foot deep in water, I was so relived.  Incidentally my friend Sundar also still lived in that area, he had moved his two wheeler out of the area and since they live in first floor not much damage. When we compared notes we felt 1984 flooding was worse than 1996.

Why this story ? It my belief that life experiences shape who we are – when I was wondering why I changed my mind so quickly it suddenly dawned on me that I have experienced life events that helped me, let me elaborate.  Probably 1984 caused a few causality but property damage was not huge, not many of those homes had Refrigerator, TV or two wheeler. Relatively in 1996 the damage would have been higher and if similar level flooding happens today the damage will be even higher, so the story resonated with me.

BTW I am firm believer in the science behind climate change and it is irrefutably caused by humans.

Ability to read diverse set of news and form opinion is important skill and being a news junkie, I have a pretty broad view on happenings around me and generally around the world.

PS It usually takes me ages (multiple days & sessions)  to compose and post a blog, an attempt to share a quick thought (it took me about 45 minutes in 3 sittings to finish this one)

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