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Floods and a ‘Preventive Measure’ that Needs Review 


Many days have passed since Cyclone Michuang swept through, yet the residents of Chennai continue to grapple with the repercussions of a series of decisions made for them or on their behalf by a multitude of individuals. It is imperative to scrutinize these decisions as they have yielded various consequences, some readily apparent while others remain concealed and nuanced.


GS3- Disaster Management- Floods

Mains Question:

While ceasing electricity supply to areas where cyclonic winds can damage power cables and cause live wires to drop into flooded streets appears rational, carrying out this practice as a ‘preventive measure’, continuing it even after the disaster raises multiple concerns. Examine and suggest a way forward strategy in this regard. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Floods and Power Cuts:

Concerns Associated:

  • The decision to cease electricity supply in areas prone to cyclonic winds, preventing damage to power cables and the risk of live wires falling into flooded streets, seems rational and prudent.
  • However, there is another aspect to consider, particularly when this practice is implemented as a ‘preventive measure’ over a broad area and prolonged beyond the natural event or reported accidents. Plunging homes and neighborhoods into darkness can pose inherent dangers.
  • The concern is not only about the potential risks during the event itself but also about the aftermath. In the absence of electricity, homes become hazardous, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • As of 2021, Tamil Nadu had a population of 13.8 crore people aged over 60. In the Chennai metropolitan area, with an estimated population exceeding 12 million, there are 500,000 individuals above 60, and over 50,000 are aged 80 or above. Many of these individuals live alone or have limited assistance, making a widespread power disruption a significant hazard.
  • Moreover, the absence of electricity in households raises security and safety concerns. Accidents and injuries are more likely to occur in the dark, turning simple tasks into precarious situations.
  • Additionally, the lack of power increases the likelihood of reptiles, insects, and potential miscreants entering houses, further compounding the risks.

Way Forward:

  • Examining the decision to cut off electricity during a cyclone and maintain the blackout even after the rain subsides must be done in light of the aforementioned facts.
  • There is no objectively “safe” choice in this scenario; it involves an ongoing, dynamic balance. Consequently, those in decision-making roles should be held accountable for the choices they make.
  • Navigating decision-making during any crisis is emotionally taxing and psychologically demanding. When these decisions are on a large scale, and the disaster’s nature is catastrophic, the process becomes an intense test of intellectual and analytical judgment, as well as personal strength and confidence.
  • The potential consequences of errors weigh heavily on the decision-maker’s mind, often leaning towards conservative options. However, neglecting to adequately consider the ‘flip side’ can result in equally serious, though perhaps less dramatic, complications due to inaction.
  • While cutting off electricity during a storm can be life-saving, the prompt restoration of power afterward is equally crucial to preserve lives and prevent severe individual consequences.
  • The decision-making process involves a delicate balance, requiring careful consideration of both immediate safety concerns and the potential long-term repercussions of the chosen course of action.
  • Certain individuals present a disingenuous case advocating for increased public transparency in these intricate decision-making processes. However, given the specialized and often confidential nature of these decisions, any review should be entrusted to specialists and subject-matter experts.
  • Allowing a complex and nuanced evaluation to devolve into a contest of shallow populism should be strictly avoided. The memories of the repercussions faced during the floods in 2015 serve as a vivid reminder of the dangers associated with taking that approach.

Think of Shared Responsibility:

  • In a robust democratic system, no individual or group should wield unchecked power over such decisions or be allowed to make them arbitrarily. It is imperative to hold decision-makers accountable for their choices, particularly when those decisions have widespread impacts.
  • While an ‘ideal solution’ may not always be achievable, our aim should be to strive towards one.
  • A hierarchical approach, structured with varying levels of responsibility based on the impact area or ‘target population size,’ could prove effective.
  • The decision-making process should be more detailed, decidedly faster, and adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances.
  • In major decision-making, involving more than one person might be beneficial. Amid an evolving crisis, periodic reviews conducted every few hours by an oversight team could help question and rectify dubious choices.


Regardless of the specifics, the underlying principle is that a decision-maker’s rationale and evidence supporting a choice or preference should be open to review. If such decisions are found indefensible or unsupported, they must be overturned or modified promptly. The responsibility rests squarely on the individual(s) making sub-optimal moves, possibly leading to their exclusion from decision-making positions in the future.

February 2024