[Photo Credits: Daphne Madonna, III Year B. A. English]
Nirmala Rajah Cynthia, III Year B.A. English.
The Vardah cyclone that swept through Chennai at speeds of 110-120 kmph brought a huge wave of destruction in its wake. It subjected the city to blocked roads, deracinated trees and next to no means of communication. The public faced mass confusion and chaos and Stella Maris College was not spared the destruction caused by the cyclone.
Stella Maris College, once host to a blooming wealth of flora, lost a veritable mine of green treasures in the short span of half a day. The cornucopia of trees in the Stella Maris College that was once the main source of strength of the college rendered the place vulnerable to the attack of the cyclone.
The campus of Stella Maris College houses four hostels and a convent. Kavya Rayala, a student who stays in the St. Joseph Hostel said that the electricity in the hostels was cut for five days and that there were times when they did not even have water to wash the plates after they had eaten. She added that though the college had generators, it was “not easy to run the five buildings with three or four generators.”
The students of Stella Maris College agree that the devastation caused by Cyclone Vardah was extensive, considering that it lasted for a very short span of time.
Tasneem M. Kathawala, the secretary of the Enviro Club, observed that the trees that were most affected by the cyclone were the Rain tree, the Gulmohar tree and the Copperpot tree and that these trees were abound on campus. The trees are not endemic to India and Tasneem said that they are not well-suited to the coastal climate of Chennai, which was probably why they did not fare well during the cyclone. She also noted that the Palm tree, which is indigenous to India, suffered minimal damage during the cyclone.
Tasneem mused that the most notable tree in the campus that was felled by Cyclone Vardah was the Wild Jack tree, which was the only one of its kind in Chennai and that the rarity of the plant made its loss more lamentable.
Tree lovers in Stella Maris are comforted to know that the Cassia glauca tree (also called the heritage tree) situated behind the B Block, which is at least a hundred years old, was unaffected by the raging wrath of Cyclone Vardah. Tasneem said, “The wind had virtually no impact on this tree.”
Efforts were taken by the Stella Maris community to overcome the aftermath of the cyclone and resolved to plant saplings so that the college would have a future that is as green as its past was. The Students Union proposed a Changemaker initiative wherein students were encouraged to recycle the natural debris on the campus to create something new. The articles the students produced were displayed in the campus OAT on 21st December, 2016.
[Photo Source: Stella Maris College Official Website]