From Deluge to Displacement: The Impact of Post-flood Evictions and Resettlement in Chennai

In November–December 2015, the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India was impacted by severe floods. The District of Chennai was one of the worst affected in the destructive deluge. Those residing on the banks of Cooum and Adyar Rivers, which house the majority of Chennai’s urban poor, were among the worst impacted. The banks of Cooum River housed 14,972 families in 65 settlements while the banks of Adyar River accommodated 9,687 families living in 28 settlements. Based on the announcements of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, on 7 December 2015 and 29 December 2015, families—living along the banks of Adyar and Cooum Rivers and Buckingham Canal—who had lost their homes were to be provided alternative houses in the resettlement sites of Kannagi Nagar and Perumbakkam, located on the outskirts of Chennai.

Following the announcements, the Government of Tamil Nadu carried out a series of evictions of the flood-affected households under the guise of ‘post-flood rehabilitation.’ The vulnerability of the urban poor, after the flood, was used by the state to clear the river banks. Of the 9,687 families residing on the banks of Adyar River, the state shifted 3,464 families to the resettlement sites of Ezhil Nagar (Kannagi Nagar) and Perumbakkam by June 2016. Plans were announced to relocate an additional 2,519 families in the month of May 2017.

However, because of the change in leadership and the uncertain political scenario in the state, it is expected that the families will be resettled towards the end of July 2017. After receiving reports of human rights violations and the absence of due process in the resettlement of flood-affected families, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), Chennai, and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), Delhi, conducted a human rights research study in the sites of Ezhil Nagar (Kannagi Nagar) and Perumbakkam, in order to identify the gaps in the postflood resettlement process; to assess and analyse the living conditions at the resettlement sites; and, to explore solutions and propose recommendations to the state.

The study uses the ‘human right to adequate housing’ framework provided by Article 11.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; General Comment 4 (‘The right to adequate housing’) of the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement; and, the InterAgency Standing Committee’s (IASC) Operational Guidelines on the Protection of Persons in Situations of Natural Disasters to analyse the resettlement process and living conditions in the resettlement sites. This study also assesses the implementation of the Tamil Nadu Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act 1971, which is the state law applicable to ‘slums’/informal settlements in the state.

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Housing and Land Rights Network
Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities