NEW DELHI

City must take immediate steps to tackle problem

Just two hours of continuous rain, brought Gurgaon to a standstill for over 10 hours.

While rescuing those stuck in traffic was the immediate concern, the huge economic losses of the large IT, auto and medical centres in the city are still being computed. It’s a sheer waste when half the people decide to skip work and take the day off while the other half get stuck in hours of traffic jam leading to loss of productive hours. All this just because it rained and the city turned into a seasonal water body.

Urban flooding is not a new phenomenon.

More and more cities and towns are facing waterlogged streets. Post 2000, we have witnessed that even relatively small downpours are enough to clog drains, fill up streets and disrupt life, which have also been the subject of several studies.

Damage

Damages from urban flooding can be grouped into two categories:

Direct damage: typically material damage caused by waterlogging or flowing water.

Indirect damage: social consequences that have negative long-term effects of a more psychological character, like decrease of property values in frequently flooded areas and delayed economic development, for e.g. traffic disruptions, administrative and labour costs, production losses, spreading of diseases, etc.

The two hours of rain caused flooding and created considerable infrastructure problems and huge economic losses in terms of production, as well as significant damage to property and goods. It caused large damage to buildings and other public and private infrastructure.

The flooding of street can limit or completely hinder the functioning of traffic systems and has indirect consequences such as loss of business and opportunity.

In Gurgaon, burgeoning human population coupled with the increased urban concentration has escalated both the frequency and severity of disasters like flash floods.

In a city just 15 years old, unplanned urbanisation has drastically altered the drainage characteristics of natural catchments, or drainage areas, by increasing the volume and rate of surface runoff.

Drainage systems are unable to cope with the increased volume of water and are often encountered with the blockage due to indiscriminate disposal of solid wastes.

Encroachment of natural water bodies, floodplains, etc. obstructs floodways causing loss of natural flood storage. There are no good resilience plans in place to help the area withstand climate-related natural disasters.

While traffic management is the best way to handle the crisis when such disaster strikes, it is also important to look at long-term resolution of the issue.

What Gurgaon needs

Urban planning principles have to be followed to make the city sustainable and resilient. Facing the same problems year-after-year and escaping to business-as-usual after a few days of negative press is not the solution.

Gurgaon requires footpaths — only 23% of the city’s roads have a functional one, according to a government report.

Gurgaon needs drains — most of them that existed earlier have been constructed upon and yet others are being clogged and blocked as you read this.

Gurgaon needs better road designs — not wide roads, they are wide enough but lack any designing that would aim at preventing traffic jams.

Gurgaon (or any city) needs roads — more than expressways.

All intersections under NH-8 — Hero Honda Chowk, Rajiv Chowk, MDI Chowk, Iffco Chowk and others — need to be immediately redesigned to control the regular traffic jams. While removing traffic signals may work well for a short period, this makeshift arrangement will give in as soon as the number of vehicles increase.

There is much that the administration can do, the question is will they?

(The writer is an architect and urban planner. She is the Manager of Cities and Transport, WRI India)

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