Madras / Chennai
Chennai, known as Madras until 1996, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is the country's fourth largest city. A great deal of industrial expansion has taken place in Chennai recently, with the mushrooming of engineering plants, car-assembly plants, educational institutions, and textile manufacturing units. The city boasts of reasonably efficient public services, public buses, and commuter trains run smoothly. Compared to the other major metros of India, it is far less congested and polluted.
With a population of roughly 10 million (the last census was in 1991) Chennai has annexed land and grown rapidly since then. Chennai is the major industrial, business, and cultural center of South India. Founded by the British in the early 17th century as their first trading and military post in South Asia, Chennai has continued to grow with very little planning. Modern concrete and glass buildings are often flanked by small shops, thatched huts, and sidewalk vendors. Major streets bustle with bicycles, scooters, handcarts, oxcarts, buses, and long-distance trucks. The general pace of life is slower than in Bombay or Calcutta. Chennai, however, also experiences poor sanitation and overcrowding. Although agriculture is still practiced by 70% of the population in South India, the consumer, engineering, and computer software industries are experiencing rapid growth. This increased pace of economic growth is especially true for Tamil Nadu, where agriculture represents only 60% of the state's livelihood.
Chennai, which rambles over 50 kilometers, is one of India's more pleasant metropolises. All U.S. Government housing is air-conditioned to provide comfort in the heat and humidity, as well as to control mildew. (See Area, Geography, and Climate under The Host Country for more information.)
The population is mostly (80%) Hindu, with large Muslim and Christian minorities. The traditional kurta/pajama (a long tunic over drawstring pants), and lungi are worn by many men; professional and businessmen, however, wear Western dress. South Indian women typically wear saris, although the North Indian tunic sets-salwar kameez, a decorative knee-length tunic and drawstring pants-are gaining popularity. South India is famous for Carnatic music and classical dance in the Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, and Kuchipudi styles.
English is spoken by about 20%-30% of the people in South India, and 60% of Chennaites. Tamil is the primary language in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Chennai was the site of the first settlement of the East India Company. It was founded in 1639, on a piece of land given by the Raja of Chandragiri, the last representative of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi. Though there are no major attractions as such, it does have the second largest beach in the world, the Marina Beach. Though a popular tourist spot, the beach is not really a favourite with swimmers, as the sea is known to house a sizeable population of sharks.
The coastal area in Tiruvallur predominantly contains a number of a small and heavy industries mixed with residential zones. Tiruvottiyur is exposed to large sea erosion due to tidal waves during monsoon. In Eravanoor and Kathivakkam a number of big industries manufacturing fertilizers and automobiles have come up. There is large number of industries like Petrochemical, Fertilizer and Refinery situated in and around Manali area.
The climate of this stretch is temperate; neither extreme heat nor extreme cold but humidity is considerable.Both the monsoon occurs here and in summer heat is considerably mitigated in the coastal area by sea breeze.During April and May the temperature may go upto 40° and during winter the temperature does not fall below 18° c. The annual rainfall is around 1200mm.Their entire coast is affected by Gales and cyclones during North East Monsoon.
The area is a vast coastal plain characterised by several strandlines, lagoon, mangroves, salt marsh, estuaries, creek , barred dunes, spits, beach terraces etc. The ground water occur under water table conditions the major water bearing formation being the coastal sands. In many places the water in the coastal areas is brackish in nature due to the presence of Buckingham canal running parallel to the coast. The linear but discontinuous zones of silica sands deposit occur at north of Mamallapuram
The ancient rock carvings at Mamallapuram (also called Mahabalipuram), the temple cities of Kanchipuram, the French colonial town of Pondicherry, and the temples at Madurai are only a few of the many places worth seeing in and around Chennai. Dakshinachitra, a wonderful collection of old south Indian homes and artifacts, and Cholamandal Artists Village, home to more than 50 artists who make and sell sculptures, brass art, oil and watercolor paintings, are both a half hour drive from south Chennai. Facilities for sightseeing are improving yearly. Adequate overnight accommodations exist in hotels, clubs, guesthouses of business concerns, or Government-run tourist bungalows.
The beach in Chennai (called the Marina) is the second largest in the world, and for a morning walk remains very popular among the who's who of Chennai. You can ride a horse on the beach, buy wonderful shells, and purchase ice cream from pushcarts, but swimming is not advisable. The surf and undertow are strong. The city side of the beach road has many old well-kept buildings from the British era. Eliot's Beach, south of the Adyar River, is popular among the younger crowd, and is the site of one of the growing number of discos in the city. Many Americans use a resort area 35 kilometers south of the city for swimming and sunbathing. Here, you can rent a beach house for weekends and holidays. However, be aware of the powerful undertow.
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables is available-corn, eggplant, beans, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, squash, avocados, mushrooms, artichokes, mangoes, bananas, peaches, pears, apples, grapes, oranges (sweet limes), guavas, limes, tangerines, and pineapples. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, and coconuts are also available. Many yards have coconut and mango trees.
Beef, chicken, mutton, lamb, pork and veal are available. The cost of meat is less than in the U.S. Turkey is also available, but the quality is poor. Fresh seafood (fish, lobster, crab, and shrimp) is available and reasonably priced. Eggs are plentiful and their quality is good. UHT long-life milk or powdered milk is used by many foreigners for both drinking and cooking. Good-quality cream and yogurt are available locally. Fresh milk should always be boiled. Baby food and formula are also available locally, but the quality is questionable.
Heavy rains lashed Chennai and surrounding areas since the firrt week of November. Extreme rainfall from two unnamed slow moving tropical lows causing severe flooding in southern India. Due to these torrential rains several areas in and around Chennai have got flooded and inundated. The city of Chennai and surrounding areas in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as the adjacent Union Territory of Pondicherry (Puducherry) experienced very heavy rains into December 2015 resulting in localized flooding, which was severe in some areas.
The Adyar River overflowed its banks and rains were expected to continue. Many roads and bridges have been closed in Chennai. Walking and driving in flooded areas can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided. Manhole covers may be missing and invisible. Flooding was often deeper than is apparent and currents may be swift. Flash floods were possible and happen quickly and without warning. More than 260 deaths had been reported in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu by 04 December 2015.
As a city on the high-energy coast facing the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is no stranger to heavy rains and cyclonic storms. Chennai has experienced particularly heavy rains roughly once every 10 years – 1969, 1976, 1985, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2015.
Chennai has a host of expensive infrastructure aimed at ushering in a “Make in Chennai” boom – a brand-new (though leaky) airport built on the floodplains of the River Adyar, a sprawling bus terminal in flood-prone Koyambedu, a Mass Rapid Transit System constructed almost wholly over the Buckingham Canal and the Pallikaranai marshlands, expressways and bypass roads constructed with no mind to the tendency of water to flow, an IT corridor and a Knowledge Corridor consisting of engineering colleges constructed on waterbodies, and automobile and telecom SEZs and gated residential areas built on important drainage courses and catchments.
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