BENGALURU: This monsoon, Bengaluru seems to have escaped the brunt of rainfall so far, while Kodagu and the neighbouring state of Kerala are battling incessant rains, landslides and widespread damage.
However, the city’s luck may run out soon as the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) has predicted heavy rainfall in September.
With the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) just beginning the work of removing encroachments across the city, a repeat of last year’s flooding could well be a possibility.
In 2017, the rainfall in September and October was more than the normally expected figures. Bengaluru received 383.3mm of rain in September, while the normal is around 179mm. In October as well, the rainfall was 226.9mm against the normal of 159.7mm — an excess of 120 per cent in September and 42 per cent in October.
While the expected rainfall this year is not as much as that of 2017, according to officials, the city is not yet in the safe zone and the scanty rainfall so far seems to have lulled the BBMP into complacency.
“This year, in the monsoon period (June to August), Bengaluru Urban district has a 30 per cent deficit in rainfall. This is similar to the situation last year. While rains in the next two months might not be as heavy as last year, it doesn’t mean that the city is safe,” KSNDMC director, Srinivas Reddy, said. Speaking to City Express, he pointed out that at present, they can predict rain for the next three to four days.
However, weather patterns building up over the Bay of Bengal could bring heavy rains to the city if they develop into a full-fledged storm, he said. The Centre has also sent out an advisory to the BBMP warning them of the same.
In BBMP limits, there are 633 stormwater drains, totalling 842 km. Of these, primary drains make up 142 km and secondary drains 426 km. The drains are built to deal with 80mm of rainfall in a day but over the years, encroachments and poor maintenance have narrowed down the capacity to just 35-40 mm of rainfall.
As a result, any rainfall above this figure will result in flooding. In July 2016, BBMP officials had given a list of 1,953 stormwater drain encroachments to the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Of these, they had cleared 1,255 encroachments by end of 2017.
However, since last year, the encroachment removal drive was not taken up as there were no surveyors.
“We had written a letter to the Joint Director of Land Records to depute surveyors, but there were delays on their side. A few months back they finally deputed ten surveyors,” an official source said. But this might be too little too late to save the city this year should KSNDMC’s predictions come true.
BT Bettegowda, BBMP Chief Engineer (SWD), said the process of removing encroachments had just begun at KR Puram, Yeshwantpur and other places.
“This time, Bengaluru will not flood. We have taken adequate measures,” he assured. But other officials in the BBMP realise that these efforts might not be of any use this year.
“For one year, BBMP did nothing but wait for surveyors. Natural calamities do not wait for anyone,” a BBMP official rued.
To make matters worse, lakes in the city are also in a bad shape.
“Out of 160 existing lakes, 141 are under the control of BBMP. Silt has been removed from 58 lakes, and recently, we called tenders to remove silt from another 15 lakes. But it can’t be done before the rains. The state government has not given enough grants for this. We have not removed silt, which means if it rains heavily or even slightly above the normal figures, there will be an overflow of water in and around lakebed areas,” a BBMP official on condition of anonymity told City Express. It can be recalled that in 2017, many areas of Bengaluru, located near lakes, witnessed flooding.
One step that the BBMP has taken, however, to avoid the deaths that happened last year during the rains is to cover the drains in most places.
Last year, open drains had led to deaths due to people falling into the drains at Sheshadripuram and Kurubarahalli.