It was near apocalypse beyond the western outskirts of Bengaluru last weekend, as the government’s marquee project—the Bengaluru-Mysuru 10-lane express highway, to be readied in time for Dasara in October—was flooded. So were the districts of Mandya, Ramanagara and regions lying along the highway route. On the eastern side, the Outer Ring Road along the IT corridor resembled a river; even the elevated expressway was flooded. Scenes of stranded buses, floating cars and panicky citizens do not behove an IT City. Poor engineering, encroachment of water channels, and human greed beset these projects. Unprecedented rain, no doubt linked to climate change, had led to lakes overflowing all along the highway.
In the city, villas, apartments and even bus terminals are sitting pretty on lake beds, wetlands and drains, blocking water flow. The Smart City project, which primarily envisions concretising roads and covering drains, leaves no scope for rainwater run-off into the earth. Planners must realise that smart cities need smart engineering and factor in local topography, geological elements and climate. They should remember that Bengaluru had over 900 lakes and tanks just half a century ago. This urban crisis is not Bengaluru’s alone. Other cities are finding themselves in deep water due to the insensitivity of planners and realtors. We need town designers who understand the environment and that climate change is upon us.
Politicians who had attempted to claim credit for the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway, built by NHAI with taxpayers’ money, were strangely silent as waters washed over the highway expanse. The ambitious project runs 119 km with several bridges, railway overbridges and underpasses, which civic experts claim ride roughshod over culverts and natural water courses; if this is true, it is still not too late to restructure it. The flooding was made worse by the discharge of rainwater from the burgeoning Cauvery, leading to fertile stretches coming under water. Quite obviously, as we sow, so we shall reap: The rain across states is linked to the destruction of ecologically sensitive regions, deforestation of mountains and global warming. Playing with nature is only self-defeating.