Unable to cope with the monsoon

Poorly Maintained

Unable to cope with the monsoon

The heavy rainfall that the City has been experiencing over the last few weeks might have eased the worst of the water crisis but along with this, it has also thrown light on the fact that Bangalore’s drainage system is in serious need of an overhaul. The system, that comprises of a network of primary, secondary and shoulder drains, doesn’t seem to have been able to bear the brunt of the monsoon. Five-minute showers often cause waterlogging that takes days to dissipate, choking up roads and underpasses with traffic. Other than the fact that this leads to a general breakdown of routine, the prevalence of stagnant water also poses a serious health risk at a time when cases of dengue and other such diseases are being reported from different parts of the City. 

On the whole, it seems that the BBMP wasn’t in the least prepared for the volume of rainwater they’d have to contend with this year. Laxmi Narayan, the commissioner of the BBMP, admits that this isn’t what the body would term a ‘normal’ monsoon. “During a normal monsoon, we don’t face any problems with the drainage system. It’s only when there’s a rush of rain over a short duration that the drains aren’t able to cope. Recently, for instance, we had 109 mm of rainfall in two hours,” he explains.

The body is doing what it can to counter this problem by initiating desilting projects over areas that are especially prone to flooding. “We’ve started desilting primary, secondary and shoulders drains wherever they are choked. There are certain parts of the City which are prone to waterlogging — the East Zone, for instance, as well as parts of Malleswaram. We’ve also had issues in localities like Peenya and Bommanahalli. There are several reasons for this; sometimes, it’s because the landscape isn’t flat. In other cases, structures that have been constructed in these areas have blocked the water-ways,” says Narayan.

Citizens of flood-prone areas, who have to bear the brunt of endless traffic and hygiene concerns, feel that a little foresight would have gone a long way in avoiding this problem. Jigna Shah, who lives in Yelahanka New Town, says, “Our neighbourhood has always had a drainage problem. The drains overflow after the briefest of showers and obviously, this leads to a lot of traffic congestion. The problem is that the authorities didn’t bother to check the drains before the monsoon to ensure that they could cope with the excess water. If the system had been better maintained in the first place, this wouldn’t be a problem.”

This lack of foresight wasn’t only because the BBMP didn’t expect such a heavy monsoon. “During the elections, some new projects weren’t sanctioned. Now, I have initiated action to ensure that these projects are all funded. Officers have been instructed to see that the drains are desilted and cleaned out,” assures Narayan. One locality that has been facing the issue of water-logging year after year is Indiranagar. Apart from poor maintenance of drains, excessive construction and commercial activity in the area have contributed to the problem. “The garbage issue is actually a critical part of this matter,” says Raghu, a resident of the area. “There’s a lot of construction taking place in Indiranagar and other than the fact that this disrupts water-ways under the ground, it also means that large quantities of material like cement and bricks are dumped in the larger drains of the area. BBMP officials have come and desilted portions of the drains several times, but the issue simply crops up again. Besides, there are also several restaurants in the area and their proprietors throw away food waste and packaging material, which is eventually washed up in the drains,” he adds.

Residents of his neighbourhood, he explains, have raised concerns over the kind of health risk that this could be posing. “The main thing that worries us is that cases of dengue and other such diseases are being reported in the City, and this could definitely be a factor. It’s a matter which needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” he concludes.

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