Deluge exposes urban planning mess in Bhubaneswar

Capital’s residents point to poor urban planning and monitoring by the BDA and BMC
(Left) A resident of Rajiv Nagar cleans her house after water recedes on Tuesday (Right) Workers clean a clogged drain at Soubhagya Nagar in Bhubaneswar | DEBADATTA MALLICK
(Left) A resident of Rajiv Nagar cleans her house after water recedes on Tuesday (Right) Workers clean a clogged drain at Soubhagya Nagar in Bhubaneswar | DEBADATTA MALLICK

BHUBANESWAR: The Monday deluge has laid bare Bhubaneswar’s urban planning and governance mess. The deluge triggered by the pelting rains not only inundated low-lying areas but also many of the city’s posh and planned areas which had never faced urban flooding before.

Even 24 hours after the rains, many of the flooded localities remained waterlogged with no evacuation available for the filthy storm and drain water that entered houses. People had to remain awake all through Monday night amidst the swirling waters in their residential premises.

While both Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) remained clueless, people have pointed to poor vigilance and monitoring of urban planning by the two premier agencies of the city.

In most of the residential areas, road heights have gone up with contractors adding layers of black-topping every season though the PWD codes mandate scarifying of the road surfaces. “To save money, contractors use heavy machines that add layers of asphalt in gross violation of norms,” said a former chief engineer of the Works department.

“Unless urban resilience is not taken seriously by town planning officials and we apprehend the situation will get worse,” said Asha Hans, a resident of Satya Nagar. The road level at Satya Nagar is higher than Hans’ six-decade-old house. The existing main road was recently re-laid with paver blocks without scrapping the old layer thus, increasing the height of the road.

The problem is the same at many of the city’s older residential colonies as BMC has turned a blind eye to contractors’ nonchalance to the problems of locals while its engineers remain blissfully unaware of the ground scenarios.

Another reason for the growing challenge has been the rampant approval of high-rises by BDA in complete disregard to the carrying capacity of areas for drainage systems and solid waste disposal. “There was 4-ft water in the lanes inside New Forest Park which is below the road level of Forest Park, yesterday,” said Rehanan Akhtar, a resident.

Urban planner Piyush Rout said Monday’s inundation was due to massive construction of roads, natural drains squeezed into concrete beds, conversion of swampy areas into construction sites and loss of the city’s sponges. “BMC and BDA may blame the rains but are they planning Bhubaneswar based on the intensity of rainfall in the future? The answer is no,” he said. If these are not enough, the city’s drainage systems - chocked, encroached and uncleaned – have been overwhelmed by even the slightest of showers. Mayor Sulochana Das admits city’s drains are unable to meet the load caused by heavy rains. Adding to the drainage woes are encroachments on drains and nets installed in all of them,” she said.

BMC commissioner Vijay Amruta Kulange blamed it on the rapid pace of construction in the city. “People are getting permission from BDA, BMC to construct houses with parking plans but converting the space into residential units and renting them out,” he said.

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