By Ranjit K. Sahu
The monsoons have caught the common man on the wrong foot in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) region, especially since people wanted relief from the smoldering heat. While most people would now curse the rain God for his nonchalant cloudburst forgetting how earnestly they had prayed for the rain few weeks earlier, very few would even take time to ponder about what has actually gone wrong. Large number of explanations is available to account for the deluge that has practically drowned Delhi in water and woes. Given the freedom to express their views many more unexpected reasons would erupt from the mouth of the people. Little would however be talked about the responsibility of each citizen that could have mitigated this situation if not eliminated it altogether.
It has become an excuse to blame the local as well as national governments for their incompetency in handling such meteorological catastrophes. That is nothing new in the Indian context or the prevailing sociopolitical scenario. Nor is it surprising that this happened. Indian cities are prone to flooding during monsoon. Mumbai is a prime example. However, what is not expected is that the colossal damage that the rains have caused in the so called technologically sophisticated areas like Gurgaon which are supposed to be the face of a modern and developed India. It is simply agonizing as well as a matter of shame the way the infrastructure was planned and built without considering the drainage aspect in a region that is known to be prone to floods. Additionally it is incomprehensible how the construction and maintenance activities continue to ignore the vitality of the drains and their role in preventing water logging. It would be no surprise if it is discovered that in their enthusiasm (nay, hunger for profit) various agencies connected to building activities in and around NCR have been accelerating the construction of townships neglecting this aspect of urbanization. While short term goals may be achieved by this process, frequent weather related damages would lead to the collapse of the entire system and may result in the relocation of important business seeking enterprises from the area. It is a different story about what the international perception about having businesses in so called Hi-tech cities would be like.
The role of the common man needs to be examined in this context as it is he who can through his active involvement help to restore some of the balance. While the common man has very little say in any decision being made at government levels or by the agencies involved in constructions, they can do their small bits to at least keep their areas free from such disasters. This also involves individual enterprises which are located and have some independence in deciding the type of structure they want to construct. More often than not construction has been associated with rampant deforestation and elimination of vegetation from an area along with the burying of wells, lakes and ponds which are natural ways through which the rain water can seep underground and compensatory forestry or tree planting is limited to the pages of official files. Local people can always raise their voice against any illegal encroachment on water shed areas. Along with that individual home owners and building owners can take steps to install rain water harvesting systems within their premises so that the same water can be used for a more beneficial activity instead of becoming the cause of flooding and water logging. People who can afford to own a residence in NCR can definitely afford to make modifications to keep their premises free off water logging!
Similarly while space for planting trees may not be available to all, efforts can be taken to have some kind of vegetation on the roof tops to be able to use the rain water. The minimization of plastic use and its proper disposal can be a very important factor in effectively using storm drains. Most drains which are still functional become ineffective due to the presence of plastic containing garbage which chokes the drains and prevents the drainage of water. People can be more conscious while disposing such waste indiscriminately in their locality. Also people can help to clean and remove silt from their local flood water drains by participating in voluntary cleaning activities.For its part the government can make rain water harvesting and the availability of proper drainage system in any urban planning a top priority and compulsory feature from the blue print stage, thereby avoiding any late stage modification to the structures. Passing stricter laws regarding the encroachment on lakes and tanks as well as heavy fine for not undertaking compensatory tree planting by construction companies may also alleviate the problem to an extent.
A far sighted approach would be to build surface drainage systems using PVCs that collect the roof top flows and deliver them to the outskirts where they can be used to fill lakes constructed as sinks. This will prevent any gross modifications to existing infrastructure and help to recharge the ground water as well as prevent the drainage from further adding to the deluge in the Yamuna River as surface run off. Additionally these lakes can be the source of water for many recreational centers cropping up around the city. Saving water through redirecting its flow may still be the best way to encounter the ill effects of the heavy showers.
It is important not only to mitigate the present calamity but also prevent any such incident in the future. A holistic approach to construction activities involving all agencies and civic minded citizens during urban development is the need of the hour. Otherwise, we will continue to see flood waters rise with each passing year as the number of high rises increases in the NCR region and the effects of climate change forces us to treat the monsoons as a catastrophic event and not life saving phenomenon.
About The Author: Ranjit Sahu, was born in India and is a doctorate in biotechnology. He has published two books in poetry ( 2005: A Year of Love and Drunk ) and his poems have appeared in the website of Poetry.com. Presently, he is working on several volumes of poems with different themes.