Floods, civic decay sink Gurugram, Bengaluru

Our Bureaus Agencies New Delhi/Bengaluru/Mumbai | Updated on January 18, 2018 Published on July 29, 2016

A flooded residential area in Kodichikkanahalli in Bengaluru. K MURALI KUMAR

Poor planning, infrastructure woes compound monsoon misery; Sec 144 in force in Gurugram

Heavy monsoon rains exposed the glaring inadequacies of urban planning and civic maintenance, leading to severe water-logging in at least two of India’s top tech cities –– Gurugram and Bengaluru –– which disrupted economic activity, caused miles-long traffic gridlocks, and threw normal life out of gear on Friday.

Other parts of India –– from Bihar to Uttar Pradesh to Assam to Arunachal Pradesh –– also experienced heavy rains and floods, which claimed the lives of humans as well as animals, including Assam’s famed rhinos.

So severe was the flood and traffic situation in the Gurugram-Manesar belt on NH8, where most automobile companies –– including Maruti Suzuki India, Hero MotoCorp and Honda Motorcycle –– have factories that authorities imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC near the Hero Honda Chowk, and issued an advisory to people to avoid Gurugram.

Minister of Road Transport, Highways & Shipping Nitin Gadkari asked NHAI Chairman Raghav Chandra to rush officers to Gurugram to take steps to restore traffic flow on NH8.

All schools in Gurugram were directed to remain closed due to risks from open manholes and potholes.

“Because of traffic jams, especially on NH8, factories in Gurugram, Manesar, Dharuhera and Bawal are affected,” Kuldeep Jhanghu, General Secretary, Maruti Udyog Kaamgar Union, said. Many employees reporting for duty in the factories were stuck for hours, he added.

However, a Maruti spokesperson told BusinessLine that the company’s factories in Gurugram and Manesar were running fine and there was no impact on production. “There was some stress in the morning, but it was sorted out by noon,” he added.

Lakes breach in Bengaluru

In Bengaluru, heavy rains –– up to 41.8 mm in 24 hours –– caused lakes to breach and left entire residential and commercial neighbourhoods flooded. The worst-affected areas were in the southern and eastern parts of the city; many parts of Hongasandra and HSR Layout too were flooded. Major arterial roads, including Old Madras Road, Hosur Road, Outer Ring Road, Bannerghatta Road and Ballari Road witnessed severe traffic snarls.

Veerasandra Junction and the NICE Road junction were inundated, throwing traffic on the IT corridor hopelessly out of gear. Small industrial units and garment industrial units in the Bommasandra Industrial Area were particularly affected.

Symptoms of urban decay

The floods glaringly exposed the underbelly of India’s cities: the absence of planning and civic maintenance. “The floods show up what is wrong with Gurugram, which is an accidental city,” said Rajiv Bhakat, Partner, Studio Code, a Delhi-based architecture firm. “In the absence of government planning, private players developed land, colonies and buildings for years.” But the limitations of infrastructure were starkly manifest, he added.

“Haryana must plan and execute rapid and massive infrastructural upgrades for Gurugram, a high-revenue generator for the State,” Bhakat added.

According to Dikshu C Kukreja, Managing Director and Principal Architect at CP Kukreja Associates, “The solution is very simple: GIS mapping of underground utility lines; establishment of a single agency with responsibility for coordination between all agencies laying underground utility such as water supply, sewer, stormwater, piped gas, telephone, electric cables, and proper desilting of drains in a time-bound manner.” .

In Bengaluru, too, civic experts blamed the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and the BBMP for the poor state of infrastructure on the city’s outskirts.

BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad, who toured the affected areas on Friday, said, “Our priority is to move residents from low-lying areas to safe places, after which stormwater drains will be widened to clear water-logging.” The problem, he added, had been compounded by the fact that five lakes are interlinked.

Why systems fail

However, former World Bank Transportation Planner Arun Mokashi said it would be impossible to predict the extent of water-logging triggered by a very heavy rainfall. “Urban and transportation planners cannot design their systems for unprecedented rainfall,” he said. 

Mokashi, who has worked for a number of multilateral agencies, pointed out that in cities such as Mumbai, citizens have learned to live with days of heavy rains, when all civic systems get paralysed. In particular, the city’s experience of the 2005 floods has made everyone cautious.

Architect and urban housing expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu said that cities such as Gurugram and Mumbai are “nothing but villages” bursting at the seams.

“There is no urban planning in Gurugram. Rampant urbanisation, failure to clear stormwater drains and corruption of local civic officials have added to the cities’ woes,” he said.

Prabhu alleged that real estate developers are only interested in constructing buildings unmindful of the impact on the ecosystem.

Across the country, Development Control (DC) rules make it compulsory for real estate developers to design systems to help water percolate into the ground. But politicians have ensured that such systems are never incorporated in the DC rules, he said.

Published on July 29, 2016
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