Things have come to such a sorry pass that if incessant rains do not throw the civic infrastructure and with it the mundane lives of people out of gear, everyone heaves a sigh of relief. But unfortunately, often it does. After Chennai last year, now two fabled high-tech “smart” cities of the future — Bengaluru in the south and Gurgaon in the North — have been paralysed by rains. Mumbai is not far behind. These cities present a sad spectacle of gushing waters and endless traffic jams.
Everyone knows the causes for the urban man-made disaster: Unplanned urbanisation and uncontrolled encroachments, as pointed out by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. It is easier to diagnose problems than fix them, the onus of which, in this instance, is on the respective state governments. The state governments have been allocating funds and executing urban infrastructure projects. The Centre too on its part has floated schemes under programmes such as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. Sometimes, the solutions prove counter-productive — in Gurgaon, reverse flow of flood waters through the storm water drainage was reported. Even where the solutions are not counter-productive, they are often rendered ineffective due to the larger problems posed by chaotic and unregulated urbanisation. This is evident in the 0.24% geographical land area covered by 100 largest cities, which are home to 16 per cent of the country’s population and account for 43 per cent of the GDP.
The vertical growth of inner cities in large cities is disproportionate to the sewage and storm water drain network, much of it created during the British Raj and now poorly maintained. Even in cities, which were newly-developed or had expanded horizontally, the encroachment of natural water storage and drainage systems has spelt disaster. The Centre and States should work in tandem to address the larger issue of urbanisation.