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Is the city prepared for the monsoon?

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THE USUAL CASUALTY:Many trees, like this one, fell following gusty winds in Bangalore recently.
THE USUAL CASUALTY:Many trees, like this one, fell following gusty winds in Bangalore recently.

Chitra V. Ramani

A recent spell of rain has brought to light poor monsoon preparedness

Bangalore: It is a year since six-year-old Abhishek Prakash was washed away in a overflowing drain in Lingarajapuram, and eight months since 18-month-old Vijay died after falling into a drain near Madivala Lake. Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is struggling to get its act together as another monsoon is upon us.

Gales and heavy rain that lashed the city recently brought to light the city's poor monsoon preparedness. Many trees fell, transformers and electricity poles were brought down along with several kilometres of conductors, while storm-water drains overflowed.

Though BBMP has claimed that it is ready for the monsoon, heavy rain on May 16 claimed the life of Ramakrishna (48) who drowned in an open drain in Venkatappa Layout here.

The incident attracted criticism. Civil society questioned BBMP's lackadaisical attempts towards monsoon preparedness. After the Abhishek incident last May, even the Karnataka High Court has censured the civic agency for dereliction and neglect of duty.

As usual, many low-lying areas in the city, including Ejipura, Audugodi and D.J. Halli, were flooded, while several thoroughfares were waterlogged. A resident of D.J. Halli, who did not wish to be named, told The Hindu that heavy rain accompanied by gusty winds had flooded parts of the area.

“The drains were not de-silted, neither were they covered. The area councillor has been able to get the BBMP to take up de-silting of the drains,” he said.

Contingency plan

Mayor S.K. Nataraj recently announced the civic authority's monsoon contingency plan. While reiterating that there was no shortage of funds to take up monsoon works, he said that the emergency squads would be on stand-by in all the eight zones. Around 150 sensitive (flood-prone) areas in the city had been identified.

Meanwhile, de-silting work of primary and secondary drains has been taken up across the city. Mr. Nataraj claimed that around 50 per cent of the 842 km of storm-water drains have been de-silted. “Retaining walls of the drains will be reinforced in a few sensitive areas to prevent flooding. This will be completed before the onset of the monsoon,” he added. He also said officials had also been instructed to ensure that the control rooms in the eight zones function round the clock.

According to chapter eight of Bangalore's NURM-CDP on Urban Drainage Systems, with the growth of the city, the number of lakes has come down to 64, while small lakes and tank beds have vanished because of encroachment and construction activities.

This has resulted in storm-water drains reducing to gutters of insufficient capacity, leading to flooding during monsoon. “Dumping of municipal solid waste in the drains compounds the problems, leading to blockages. To control floods, it is important to remove silt and widen these storm-water drains to maintain the chain flow and avoid water from stagnating at one point,” it says.

Encroachments

Several civil society groups and urban planners are of the opinion that the BBMP must first ensure that all encroachments along the drains and on lake beds are removed, and de-silting of drains done regularly.

According to senior BBMP officials, 205 sq m of drains were encroached upon in Dasarahalli zone, 3,172 sq m in Mahadevapura zone, 10,392 sq m in Rajarajeshwarinagar zone, 13,081 sq m in Bommanahalli zone, 770 sq m in Challaghatta valley, 3,529 sq m in Hebbal valley, 10,196 sq m in Vrishabhavathi valley and 3,030 sq m in Koramangala valley.

While no encroachments have been cleared in Dasarahalli, 600 sq m is yet to be cleared in Mahadevapura zone, 2,300 sq m in Rajarajeshwarinagar zone, 55 sq m in Bommanahalli zone, 450 sq m in Challaghatta valley, 399 sq m in Hebbal valley, 2,445 sq m in Vrishabhavathi valley and 1,430 in Koramangala valley.

‘Continuous process'

The encroachment removal drive was stopped soon after the BBMP elections were announced last year. Even after the BBMP Council was formed, the drive is yet to resume. The official claimed that encroachment removal drive was a “continuous process.”

“We are right now conducting a survey of the storm-water drains in the city. Top priority has been accorded to removal of encroachments in flood-prone areas,” he said. He also claimed that the BBMP was preparing a SWD Master Plan.

“The draft plan is ready. Our officials are physically verifying the data collected,” he added.

The BBMP is also mapping the encroachments to support its case before the High Court.

The civic authority's drive was stayed by the High Court on November 25 after a petition was filed by former Mayor P.R. Ramesh, who claimed that the BBMP had rendered many homeless.

While the BBMP claims to have a contingency plan, it now remains to be seen if the city can actually handle the monsoon. One thing is certain: its citizens will not forgive another death caused by heavy rain.

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