As Delhi residents breathe a sigh of relief every monsoon, their neighbouring city of Gurugram makes headlines for water-logging. Home to exciting start-ups and corporates, the city is one of the largest financial hubs in India. But, from July to September, why do Gurugram residents have to wade through water just to go to work or buy essentials?
The reason behind the frequent flooding
There are multiple reasons behind recurring water-logging in Gurugram. While many attribute it to the rapid urbanisation and expansions in real estate, clogged drains contribute greatly to the issue too. Fast real-estate development and construction of commercial as well as residential projects in low-lying areas increases the risk of being struck by natural disasters. Archana Baghel, an urban planner currently based in Ahmedabad, talks about some of the significant causes for flooding in the city in her research.
“In 2015, when rains flooded Gurugram, the effects were felt the most in rural areas like Kankrola village. The dysfunctional dam in Kankrola village, and the clogged drains in Mewat, worsened the conditions. This indicates poor infrastructure and insufficient drainage systems to be the triggers,” she says.
Another common cause for flooding, not just in Gurugram but pan-India, is encroachments. Often, low-income households and workers encroach on public infrastructure like drainage systems which can cause choked drains and ultimately, flooding. It is important to note that clogged drains have no outlet for the accumulated water. Raman Sharma, chief engineer at Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), emphasised this to Hindustan Times, “Most of the rainwater flowed back into Gurugram due to lack of outlet, flooding the satellite town’s thoroughfares and residential areas. The COVID-19 outbreak did not do any good. Due to the massive shortage of workforce, several drains were left uncleaned.”
The root cause
Infrastructure experts point out that lack of advanced planning, concretisation of Badshahpur drain, and a misdirected approach towards solving the problem are at the heart of waterlogging. According to them, the city pays for the short-sightedness of its makers every time it rains.
Sewa Ram, an urban transport systems design expert and a professor of Transport Planning at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, says that the civic plans have been designed to deal with a ‘crisis’ rather than finding a ‘solution’.
“Authorities have only prepared for disaster management instead of also paying attention to mapping areas based on the intensity of water-logging. They need to localise the problem, and identify remedial measures for each one of them. It is only when a study is carried out, that the flow of rainwater can be ascertained, which in turn is sure to enable authorities to place embankments, drains, check-dams accordingly,” Sewa Ram told Hindustan Times.
Lessons from Karachi or other Indian counterparts?
There are multiple approaches through which water-logging can be avoided in Gurugram. The first is a quick and immediate solution, as was implemented in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2020, the federal government brought in the National Disaster Management Authority to de-silt Karachi’s nalas (drains). And, their endeavour resulted in 30,000 tonnes of solid waste being removed from 42 choking points on three nalas. Without the support of the local government and participation of residents, these activities would have been difficult to carry out. Clean ups like these can surely prevent drains from choking in Gurugram.
Another solution is by attempting instant flood-warning systems to address issues around urban stormwater management. While Mumbai launched an Integrated Flood Warning System (IFLOWS) to identify imminent flooding, the Chennai Flood Warning System used spatial flood warnings for the city. The Karnataka government launched the Meghasandesha mobile app, providing real-time rainfall measurements, along with forecasts for rain, flooding, and thunderstorms. These systems help build resilience and can inform the public and authorities regarding risks.
India’s capital and Gurugram’s neighbour, Delhi, has prepared several multi-dimensional strategies to tackle urban flooding, which can be learnt and implemented in Gurugram. The city was the first to have a drainage master plan, prepared by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
The Delhi Jal Board has also revived 159 water bodies in the city, along with floodwater harvesting projects in the floodplains of Yamuna. All these measures have multiple economic, environmental, social and urban benefits for the citizens of Delhi.
There is a major role of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) towards addressing urban flooding issues. Like in Delhi, all major cities which face flooding in monsoons need a flood management action plan that gets reviewed every year. Additionally, the ULBs need internal coordination among its different departments, to resolve issues of solid waste management, storm water drains, sewage and industrial effluents, among others. Changes in master plans, building bylaws and ensuring their strict implementation is the need of the hour. Thus, having an active flood management group in every affected city which can constantly monitor the situation, issue necessary alerts and directions, and ensure implementation, is the way forward.
Edited by Anjali Hans
Some resources to help you learn more about why Gurugram faces water-logging: