In an interview to a business daily on his new book, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, author Amitav Ghosh said the entire vocabulary of the Paris climate change agreement is a “vocabulary of concealment… It produces a rhetoric that is geared towards something while all the players are doing exactly the opposite”.
While his comments were on climate change, it holds true for the management of India’s cities too, which are already facing the brunt of climate change but are in a denial mode.
Come monsoon, every year without fail, roads get inundated resulting in massive traffic snarls. In the recent past, there have been several such man-made chaotic situations: Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai. Urban flooding has become a yearly phenomenon. Leave alone enjoying the sights, sounds and smell of the life-giving monsoon, we are busy evading the next pothole and slush.
Mumbai is no better. With the monsoon in full flow, potholed roads and the traffic gridlocks are likely to continue. Until July 10, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded 612 potholes. In both cities, the culprit is the lack of coordination between different agencies tasked with cleaning drains and maintaining the roads. 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 “vocabulary of concealment” works here too. While Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has asked the civic agencies to pull up their socks, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation said that the Delhi Government was to be blamed for the water-logging woes of the city. Come to think of it, this passing the buck game works beautifully for both parties. However, it may impact the ruling AAP politically much more than the civic agencies because citizens are far more demanding now that they were even a few years ago and are aware that the taxes they pay are literally going down the drain. This week, many took to social media to vent their anger and posted photos of people wading through knee-deep water. The time for ‘how to rectify’ has long passed; city governments and civic agencies must stop playing these petty games and get the work done instead of hiding behind lofty promises and jargon.