Clean Tech

How a board game could have helped Chennai during floods

Visvaksen P | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 22, 2015

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Flood Control could have sprung government to action and made authorities communicate better through simulation

On the night of December 1, when the sluice gates of the Chembarambakkam Reservoir opened to release a massive surge of water into the Adyar river, a number of key government bodies including the Coast Guard, State and National Disaster Response Forces, Metro Water and TANGEDCO were entirely in the dark about the decision.

The rains may have battered Chennai, but it was these kinds of lapses in communication that nearly drowned it.

In far away Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where the lowest part of the city is about 20 feet below sea level, being unprepared for a flood is not an option.

The Dutch have spent well over half a century preparing for the waters to rise and in the process, they’ve become the world leaders at water management and flood control. One of the simplest and most effective flood management techniques that has emerged from the country is a game called Flood Control.

Developed by a three-person team comprising two water management experts and a media technologist, the so-called serious board game is a hyper-realistic recreation of a flood situation. “The original version, set in the city of Rotterdam, presents a scenario where there are river discharges and a storm surge at sea – the worst case scenario in the Netherlands,” says Nikéh Booister, one of the creators of the game.

Unlike most board games which involve players competing against each other to win, this game is designed to make players to work together in order to survive as they attempt to fill the boots of real life government agencies such as water boards, municipal administrations and emergency response forces.

“The goal is to improve communication. It is based on the triadic game design principle, which means that it is fun, but it is also realistic and it teaches you something,” explains Booister.

FloodCom, the company that Booister and her colleagues – Rense Bakker and José Kooi – formed to market the game has taken it to students at several universities and more importantly to water boards across the Netherlands.

From the initial single board based on Rotterdam, there are now 30 draft versions that replicate the game in several other areas of the Netherlands, not to mention other major cities of the world including New York, London and Jakarta.

Asked whether Flood Control could have helped Chennai mitigate the effects of the recent rains, Booister replies with a qualified yes.

“It depends on how much they are organised already. How much do the government agencies communicate at the moment.”

Published on December 22, 2015
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