Save lakes, prevent flooding

Save lakes, prevent flooding

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Save lakes, prevent flooding 2-min

Save lakes, prevent flooding 2-min
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According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), on an average every year, 75 lakh hectare of land is affected, 1,600 lives are lost and the damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities due to floods is worth Rs 1,805 crore. Due to their higher population density, cities are vulnerable to greater loss of life and property than rural areas

Month of June signals the onset of southwest summer Monsoon, a four-month period when massive convective thunderstorms dominate India’s weather. Monsoon accounts for nearly 80% of India’s rainfall. This year too, Monsoon has met its deadline, arriving in Kerala few days before the schedule and according to IMD (India Meteorological Department) forecast country is going to have normal rainfall – a good news for farmers but no so good news for those living in cities.

Water logging and pothole filled roads are the common scenes of our cities during Monsoon making the life of common man miserable. Several days during monsoon life in cities come to standstill thanks to heavy downpour and its aftermath. Deaths due to drowning and electrocution are common during monsoon. This has been the story year after year – indicating how bad we are in learning lessons from our past mistakes. Accidents and casualties, though avoidable, we accept them as part of our life.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), on an average every year, 75 lakh hectare of land is affected, 1,600 lives are lost and the damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities due to floods is worth Rs 1,805 crore. Due to their higher population density, cities are vulnerable to greater loss of life and property than rural areas.

While it has become a habit now-a-days to blame climate change (though partly it may be true) we as a nation haven’t done anything concrete to save ourselves from this calamity all these years.  Unfortunately, flood risk mapping still remains an unaccomplished task of disaster risk management experts in India. A task force set up by the Central Water Commission (CWC) in 2006 couldn’t do much about flood risk mapping either. Often, IMD has become the victim of public ire for its inaccurate forecasting of rains and flooding. But the fact is that, even when IMD was correct in prediction lives have been lost due to drowning, etc.  At the same time, we need some professional bodies or weather watchers who not only can predict which city is going to receive how much rainfall but also can foresee its intensity and impact.

Leaving aside our inability to predict or forecast rainfall accurately, an analysis of our preparedness to face eventualities like floods reveals the poor urban planning and lack of preparedness of civic administration.  If floods are curse of God, our survival from flood too is due to the mercy of Almighty.  Our cities are utterly incapable of handling floods because our storm water networks are either blocked or not adequate. Many cities do not have separate storm water networks and drains also carry sewage. With sewage mixing with stormwater, it is difficult to channel the excess rain water into local lakes or sea. Many a times, garbage also finds its way into and obstructs stormwater drains, floating out when they overflow.

Cities have become concrete jungle with concrete and tarmac all around. The situation has been aggravated because of growing concretisation of open land. When ground is not concretised it can absorb nearly 80% of the rain water. That’s the reason why impact of flood is felt more in the heart of the cities than in the outskirts. Due to creation of almost a near-total impervious area impact of flood gets amplified in urban areas. Again, a case of poor urban planning and lack of proper rules and policies.

Further, in many cities lakes are shrinking or disappearing thanks to unprecedented growth of real estate sector. This can be felt in cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru. In Mumbai, a river running through the city is almost on the verge of disappearing. Unfortunately, today our urban planning is dictated not by our future needs but by the demands of the real estate sector. Myopic view of the urban planning has caused the breaking of water channels. According to experts, water retention bodies, including ponds and canals, are required to occupy at least 12 per cent of the land area in any city. This condition is hardly met by any city today in India. So, reclaiming the grabbed ponds and lakes should part of our future urban planning. However, this is easier said than done as the lake and pond grabbers form the most powerful section of the society often having the backing of politicians. Therefore, at least efforts should be made to save the existing lakes from further shrinking.

Most of the Indian cities have grown organically but without proper planning, from a cluster of villages and small towns. Our cities have grown without adequate infrastructure, and whatever little infrastructure we have is inadequate for extreme rainfall. Our mega-projects for solving water-logging would not bring any long-term benefit until water retention bodies are restored and the drainage master plan is implemented.