Urban Eris? Chennai’s water bodies and their future

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Brigitta Schütt (FU)

Project Outline

The landscape of Tamil Nadu, South India, is shaped by eri cascade systems. Eris (Tamil: lake, reservoir) are semi-natural water bodies, which divert river water to retain it in the landscape for agricultural irrigation. In an area, which is dependent on monsoonal and cyclonic rainfall, eris also help to retain stormwater for flood and drought control. In the peri-urban areas of Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital, eri cascades are still widespread occurring and mostly functioning. Nevertheless, they are under threat due to rapid urbanisation and landuse change. This PhD project aims at evaluating the impact of eri cascade systems and conceptualizing their new role in an upcoming urban region.

Three key questions form the core of this PhD:

1. What planning challenges does Chennai face?

2. What is happening in and around Chennai’s peri-urban water bodies?

3. What can happen, when planning challenges lead to new approaches and peri-urban water bodies receive a chance for sustainable urbanisation?

Using the case study of Manimangalam Eri, located in the south-west of Chennai, I am surveying eri management processes, landuse changes and stakeholder constellations. How current conflicts can be resolved and whether alternative approaches can find their way into existing regulations, remains uncertain so far.