No one could have missed the news on the floods which recently devastated large parts of the metropolitan city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
Large-scale environmental degradation coupled with a dismal storm water drainage system, which was unable to cope with rainfall that exceeded the normal limit three times over, have been the cause of the city being flooded.
The irony of the situation is that this tragedy took place against the back drop of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015.
Citizens came together in an unprecedented manner from all strata of society to lend a hand. Contributions poured in - in the form of money, food, offers for shelter, medicines, water and much more.
The city was at a standstill with transport, power as well as telephone networks being severely affected.
Samarpan Foundation relief activity could only begin on Dec 3, 2015, once the rainfall slowed, and was taken forward in two stages.
A collection centre for relief material from across India was set up in Bangalore.
16 Samarpan volunteers from Chennai, Bangalore as well as Delhi swung into action, taking up different tasks to manage and coordinate the entire relief programme.
Clean drinking water, gas cylinders, ORS packets, biscuits, milk powder, sugar, coffee, torches, diapers, mosquito repellent, cup noodles and 525 home-made theplas (an Indian bread that does not spoil, a speciality of Gujrat state) cooked by 3 ladies in 2 days, were collected for distribution, along with other assorted items.
Distribution of material started in Nolumbur (Mogappair), M K B Nagar (Vyasarpadi), Pillaiyar Koil Street (Vaanagaram), Kanniyappan Nagar (Vaanagaram), Amjakarai and Mudichur.
A primary focus at this time was also to provide clean drinking water to prevent water-borne diseases, which could become a major health hazard.
Baileys came forward and agreed to provide water at their production rates. They also agreed to offer the same anywhere in water-logged Chennai.
Kingfisher generously donated 4800 litres of water as well.
Wading in water contaminated with sewage, using every possible means of transport including boats, Samarpan Foundation volunteers distributed 11,000 litres of water, 4,000 cup noodles and 7,000 packets of biscuits to those marooned at various locations.
The volunteers now shifted their efforts towards the far-flung areas of Cuddalore district of the state which, while being severely hit, had not received adequate attention due to the difficult conditions.
Small villages were identified, the worst affected prioritised and 1500 kg of rice was sent to 300 families in Sirupalaiyur village in Chidambaram.
500 lungis (Indian men’s wear), 300 bed sheets, 200 pyjamas for women, biscuits, sanitary napkins, blankets and sleeping mats were collected.
Coca-Cola came forward and sponsored Kinley bottled drinking water.
The Govt issues BPL cards (Below Poverty Line ration cards which are provided as a normal activity in the state to procure food grain etc. at subsidised rates). Out of these 300 affected families of Cuddalore district, roughly 250-families had their cards while approximately 50 had misplaced theirs.
However, due to the chaotic conditions, movement was restricted, preventing them from using their cards at government approved centres for supplies. The foundation stepped in and distributed some much-needed items.
Individual packets, each containing 5 kg rice, ladies' pyjamas, 1 dhoti, 1 bed sheet, some biscuits and sanitary napkins, were organised and distributed to these 300 families.
On December 13th, a medical clinic/camp was also set up as part of the relief efforts and 7 qualified doctors along with 2 assistants were brought in to conduct a general health check for the villagers and appropriate medicines were distributed.
While the relief work continues, a lot more is required in terms of basic essentials to re-build a life that was.
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Thank you for your generosity!