Every year during monsoon, the national capital comes to a halt with knee-deep water on arterial roads choking the city and no one to take the responsibility.
There are at least 17 government agencies in Delhi, which are in some way involved in road, drainage and their maintenance. Therefore, even though the three municipal corporations are responsible for providing civic amenities to 98% of the city, there are areas that do not fall under its jurisdiction.
The five national highways in the city, for example, fall under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). So, if one of these gets waterlogged, only NHAI will have to clear the mess.
All roads more than 60 feet wide fall under the Public Works Department (PWD).
In the unauthorized colonies and slums, several agencies, including the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), are responsible for development.
This means there are areas that often see overlapping jurisdiction. “There are multiple drains which have overlapping jurisdiction. For example, a drain 10 km long may have two to three governing agencies, this leaves no scope of fixing responsibility,” said a municipal official.
Activists have long been pointing out how the involvement of several agencies is a big problem.
Environmentalist Manoj Mishra wrote to the Delhi chief minister and L-G, demanding that all stormwater drains in the city should be managed by a single authority so that accountability can be fixed.
“The ritual of spending crores of rupees and desilting should be stopped till a single agency in the is made in charge of the stormwater drains,” he wrote.
The lack of a fully developed sewer system also plays a role in the constant waterlogging and flooding of roads during monsoon. According to Delhi Jal Board officials, only 55% of the city has a sewer connection.
“This means the sewerage from 45% of the city is still dumped wherever it can go, including into stormwater drains. In the areas that have a sewage system, the problem is that of stormwater entering them. Sewer drains have a limited capacity but many storm water drains are connected to sewer lines illegally. In monsoons, this becomes a problem because rainwater enters the sewer, causing it to overflow,” said Keshav Chandra, CEO, Delhi Jal Board.
Municipal corporations spend approximately R240 crore primarily on the process of de-silting drains. As per their data, all three corporations successfully de-silted all drains in their areas before monsoon.
They claim they are ready to combat a Mumbai-like situation in the national capital. Comparing the two megacities, however, is erroneous.
Delhi gets only 611 mm of rain in a year whereas Mumbai gets almost four times more at 2,409 mm.