Urban flooding and a vulnerable city

The city, despite being enveloped by a host of thick, grey clouds, was abuzz with its usual weekend crowd and traffic.
express  illustration
express illustration

BENGALURU: Last week, I met a bunch of friends at home after a very long gap, thanks to the pandemic. After the initial pleasantries, someone pointed out that we were having actual conversations with each other, which was marvellous. Some of us had fallen sick and recovered, some of us had lost dear ones to Covid and some did not prefer to speak about their ordeals. Mostly, we were grateful to see each other after having witnessed the worst. The city, despite being enveloped by a host of thick, grey clouds, was abuzz with its usual weekend crowd and traffic.

It had been pouring outside from past two weeks. Harsh cyclonic weather surprised Bengaluru and we were discussing how the city was in distress following just one night of heavy thunderstorms. “It has become an annual experience from past few years,” my friend remarked wryly. “Are we actually becoming used to this? How resilient are we?,” another asked, as it started drizzling outside.

I recalled being stranded during last year’s monsoon near the Lalbagh main gate as drains started spewing water onto the road and it became too dangerous to drive. It was very obvious that these drains had not been cleared. While handling the latest flood reports from various cities across Karnataka, I have been noticing various civic forums pointing to blocked stormwater drains, faulty civic works and delayed cleaning as the primary reasons.

Recently, the water drains in my apartment building were cleaned and although we keep our surroundings trash-free, a gigantic heap of mud was pulled out. I wonder what the condition of city drains might be like and how long will it be before serious measures are taken to prevent flooding during rains.

Urban flooding has assumed serious proportions, affecting us in one way or the other. The response of the official machinery during floods such as rescue and the post-flood refurbishment process holds much importance. The cleaning up of silt, debris and restoration of water, power and sanitation services requires attentive planning and execution.

In their study titled Urban flooding in recent decades in four mega cities of India (2013), meteorological experts U S De, G P Singh and D M Rase say uncontrolled growth of mega cities has increased their vulnerability to flooding. They say urban flood management in developing countries requires an in-depth evaluation of socio-economic issues related to land use and urban development in context to the frequent urban flooding.

Impacts can be reduced by various measures, such as better forecasting tech; identifying vulnerable zones; improved disaster management; improving old drainage systems, re-enforcement of weak, old buildings; preventing spreading of diseases; long-term plan for diversification of industries and job opportunities to prevent overcrowding of mega cities; creating public awareness on response to weather warnings and forecasts and finally, pollution control with planning for greener cities, including urban reforestation.
It poured throughout the night. My friends left after dinner and I watched from my balcony as lights atop a skyscraper under construction nearby became blurry, encased in fog.

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