BHUBANESWAR: Death of 15-year-old Jyoti Prakash Behera, who was swept into an open drain by storm water on Sunday, has exposed the shoddy urban planning and rainwater management in the Capital city where artificial makeover has received all attention in the last six to seven years.
More than it, it has shown that the Housing and Urban Development has hardly bothered itself about the urban flooding which gradually has been emerging as a menace for the city where at least seven lives have been lost in similar tragic circumstances.
Barring 2020, at least one person every year (two persons in 2017) has become victim of such flooding in the city since 2015.
Heavy downpour during monsoon is not new for the Capital which has had a natural geographical advantage but urban deluge has been frequent in the recent years. The total length of drains under BMC control stands at over 625 km now.
The Works department administers roadside drains measuring approximately 300 km. Then there is National Highway Authority of India which builds highways as well as infrastructure under Water Resources Department.
Although these many agencies are responsible for various infrastructure such road and drainage system, there is barely any common ground when it comes to convergence of plans and designs. Both National Highway Authority of India and BMC has had a long stand-off over the problem near Iskcon temple area but there was no intervention from the department as the problem was left to BMC.
There is hardly any communication among these State-agencies when construction of infrastructure takes place. Moreover, at least 230 km of them are open. Disposing a petition after the twin tragedies in 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the State to ensure that no drain remains open but very little was done to cover the drains or construct guard walls to ensure safety.
After writing letters to Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), PWD, NHAI, and IDCO in this regard, sources said, the H&UD department has been sitting idle. "The government needs to own up," says retired engineer Lalit Mohan Patnaik.
Urban planners say originally planned for around seven lakh population, the city has been facing the unprecedented urban flooding only after the implementation Comprehensive Development Plan prepared by IIT-Kharagpur in 2008.
"The plan has been prepared for a population of 30 lakh in an area spread up to Jatni but lacks planning for drainage, sewerage and garbage disposal. Our urban infrastructure is not best suitable for climate change impact but nobody is accountable. It seems urban flooding in Bhubaneswar is not a priority for them," he pointed out.