If unseasonal rains spread over three to four days bring misery to Bengaluru, one can easily imagine the havoc the city will have to face with the impending onset of the monsoon. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai recently blamed the unusually heavy downpour last week for flooding in many areas, but the bigger, and persistent, question is, why is the BBMP woefully unprepared, year after year? A template has been set over the past two decades, with every successive Chief Minister visiting rain-hit areas after the fact and announcing a slew of measures to prevent flooding in the future, only to forget about it until next year’s downpour. This time, Bommai has said that the government will take an integrated approach to developing stormwater drains at a cost of Rs 1,600 crore. One of the elementary tasks of the BBMP is to desilt primary, secondary and tertiary drains during the summer to ensure the smooth flow of water during the monsoon. But according to the Chief Minister’s own admission, in HBR Layout, for instance, accumulation of silt had clogged the stormwater drain (SWD) over a length of about 2.5 km. This is pretty much the state of most other drains in the city, too. The Chief Engineer in charge of SWD, R Suguna, who was posted merely six months ago, has been transferred, but things are unlikely to improve unless the jurisdictional engineers are held to account.
Even the best-planned cities in the world face floods and water-logging during extreme rains, but in Bengaluru the problem is purely BBMP-made – one of bad planning and execution. The time taken for rainwater to recede depends on various factors. For one, the natural contours of the city that helped drain rainwater into the lakes have been tampered with beyond repair. Worse, the water bodies themselves have been encroached upon. The concretisation of the city, especially with the white-topping of roads, leaves little scope for water to percolate into the ground. The unscientific planning of roads, where in many areas the drains are at a higher level, also leads to flooding and stagnation.
What happened when it rained last week is nothing new. It has occurred almost every year for over two decades, and it will happen again. Instead of merely issuing statements, the Chief Minister should appoint a panel of reputed urban planning experts who will help evolve a permanent solution to the monsoon flooding and associated problems while taking into account that climate change is here and extreme weather events, including extreme rains, are going to be the order of the day.