Thursday, 20 February 2020

Flood Fury

Updated: August 12, 2016 1:32 pm

The wrath of the nature seems like revenge from the gods, as vast swathes of several states, namely Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, etc, are witnessing deluge. All these states, where havoc has been wreaked by the monsoon rains, should have read the warning signs of the impending doom.  In the worst case of flooding, Bengaluru, the IT hub of the country, was left inundated as three lakes overflowed last week. In the recent years, Bengaluru has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to IT boom and a good climate of the city. But the city municipality and government machinery caught napping, as they failed to take adequate measures to meet the upcoming requirements except approving building plans by collecting fees and bribe, leaving other things to the wind. They did not think simple road design is proportional to the city population & traffic. Furthermore, Industrial hub Gurugram witnessed its worst-ever traffic jam on the intervening night of July 28-29 as thousands of motorists were stuck on a stretch of the Delhi-Gurugram expressway for more than 12 hours owing to heavy rains. Due to this massive jam, people who got stuck in that jam described Gurugram as ‘Gurujam’. It is a shame that planners have not given due attention to stormwater drainage and other infrastructure issues while giving approval for housing and road projects, and allowed construction in a haphazard ways that allow builders and highway projects make quick bucks with utter disregard to public safety. Today, it cannot be gainsaid that in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Assam, it is man-made factors that have compounded the scale of destruction. The profusion of hydro-power projects, construction of roads to accommodate ever-increasing tourism, especially seasonal religious tourism, adopting of non-traditional building techniques, large-scale encroachments on the river bed and banks, slum clusters, etc. are major causes for the huge human price that we shall pay for this deluge. The haphazardness of the habitations was evidently seen even in the ruins. So much damage was avoidable if even little efforts had been put in place.  The carrying capacity of the Himalaya should be properly assessed.

The roads that have been cut into the mountainside carry heavy loads of vehicles, machinery and traffic. This makes them unstable. The entire ecology of the mountains has been destroyed. The price for unchecked and unplanned promotion of tourism has been paid. The sheer number of stranded vehicles, and the visuals of the ones that were washed away, show the extent of vehicular traffic. The riverside multi-storied hotels and houses were sitting ducks. The fate of the missing persons and the endless wait their families will endure is heartbreaking.  One cannot ignore the fact that these three states have borders with hostile countries. The strategic importance of communication and logistics should have been kept in mind. The sheer callousness and helplessness of the administration in handling the situation rings warning bells. It seems that no preparedness was in place, the officials just ran helter skelter and confusion prevailed in the early vital hours of the apocalypse. It is worth mentioning here that availability of land and water resources per person keeps on decreasing with the increasing population and, therefore, settlement in flood plains is inevitable as the higher lands have already been fully occupied. As a result, lots of people are adversely affected when the rivers flow full during monsoon. The towns get flooded as the seepage of rain water has been eliminated by making the land impervious due to the infrastructural needs. The developmental needs to sustain this huge population require lot of tinkering with nature which, in turn, affects ecology and environment besides accelerating climate change and consequences thereof. During every monsoon, we talk about floods & loss of life and property in urban and rural areas, then after monsoon we forget everything and get engaged in our daily activities making a sense that nothing happened. This is a recurring cycle. Wide array of precaution and measures need to be taken to safeguard from this situation, i.e. desilting and creation of existing and new wetlands, strengthening of embankments, creation of canal systems, river linking, etc. State governments should need to come together in support of river linking. Furthermore, a proper comprehensive long-term plan, keeping in mind the climatic conditions of the area, should be implemented. Proper meteorological stations for forecasting should be put up. Unchecked growth, both in infrastructure and population, should be stopped. However, there will be massive reconstruction and redevelopment in these areas in the years to come. At least, this time the administration should ensure that planned and sustainable methods should be adopted. This way we can avoid this recurring cycle of destruction.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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