Heavy rains, thundershowers, cloudbursts, and cyclones have long been battering villages, towns, and cities in our country, be they located on either of the coasts or in the hinterland. These nature’s outbursts claim lives, destroy property, and heap miseries on the survivors. In its wake, anger wells up within us over nothing being done despite seven-and-a-half decades of independence. That anger involves a question: Why is it that despite the freedom to use whatever scientific tools and concepts that are there at our disposal, we are unable to fortify ourselves against flooding?
One technology that could provide a credible solution is literally right under our noses. It is under the surface of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, the Mecca of cricket in Karnataka, and which also houses the National Cricket Academy, besides hosting a series of international matches, including some of the Indian Premier League matches.
For the last six years, the stadium has had an underground sub-aeration system that renders the ground dry when it floods during heavy rains. It is the first cricket stadium in the world to have such a sub-surface technology that ensures minimum loss of playing time. It works in pressure and suction modes with the latter having the capability to pull a whopping 10,000 litres of water per minute.
The system is automatically activated by sensors that detect water accumulation on the surface. It uses perforated pipes to draw in the accumulated surface water to underground drain pipes which dispatch the water away. It has worked wonders in ensuring adequate play time despite flooding by rendering the ground dry in a quick time. These systems have also been installed under golf courses, and baseball and football fields in the USA.
Unfortunately, this water-collecting-cum-dispatching concept that prevents flooding by actually removing the accumulated water has been restricted only to sports fields, while it can be applied to remove flood waters to prevent areas from being flooded, in villages, towns, and cities.
There is a double benefit of this concept: The huge volumes of water gathered and dispatched from underground drains can be channelized to large water collection tanks for the water to be stored, treated, and rerouted to water-deficit areas during times of need. This technology provides the opportunity to exploit nature’s fury expressed through thunderstorms, cloudbursts or cyclones to actually trap the floodwater heaped on us to use it for our own benefit. This, while ensuring no flooding.
But for this to work to prevent flooding in civic areas, additional infrastructure needs to be put in place. This can be in the form of additional drain pipes to route the large amounts of collected water to storage tanks and also pipes with pumps and valves to drive the water from flood-prone areas to grounds chosen or identified in advance under which the sub-aeration systems are installed to work their wonder.
What Cyclone Michaung did to Chennai and Tamil Nadu a few days ago may be the latest reminder of what nature can do even as we remain unprepared, except to evacuate people from affected areas. Bengaluru’s agonies still remain fresh in the minds of those who suffer every time there is a deluge due to rain havoc.
The August 2019 floods in Karnataka continue to remain a nightmare. Excess rainfall and resulting water discharge from reservoirs severely affected 103 taluks in 22 districts of the state, with Belagavi, Vijayapura, Raichur, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Uttara Kannada and Kodagu being the most affected. Sixty-one lives were lost, at least 15 went missing and property worth Rs 35,160 crore was destroyed or damaged. Up to 7 lakh hectares of standing agriculture and horticulture crops were lost.Can a series of sub-aeration systems, installed under appropriately selected open grounds, help to significantly mitigate — even prevent,in some places — floods?
Science, technology and engineering are domains of possibilities. If the system has worked to keep sports fields dry, it can work with the same principles to remove flood waters, too, with modifications and an innovative approach. But it needs a political will and a bureaucratic drive. Somebody needs to take a bold step ahead, somebody capable of thinking out of the box, somebody with a never-say-die approach.
Deputy Resident Editor, Karnataka