Just three hours of rain on Thursday was enough to drown Gurgaon. The chaos unleashed on the roads of a city replete with swanky buildings, glitzy malls and multinationals also served a grim warning -- the worst is yet to come.
Unless the government and civic agencies get together to treat the root cause of the disease instead of dealing with the symptoms, Gurgaon could be in for a worse disaster if it rains for an entire day.
One thing is clear, neither the city’s infrastructure nor the administration is ready to meet such as challenge.
The failure to clear clogged drains, rampant destruction of natural ponds and embankments for development and poor civic planning are the main causes of Tuesday’s disaster.
Gurgaon is a low-lying region that receives rainwater run-off from both from the Aravallis and Delhi’s Chhatarpur.
Repeated encroachment along the main Badshahpur drain and patchy concretisation of other master outlets has ensured storm water mixed with sewage flooded Gurgaon’s arterial roads.
The decision of urban planners to build artificial drainage overriding natural drains as per the Gurgaon Master Plans proved to be a major blunder.
“This is a recipe for disaster...expensive plans for concretising drains were formed and executed. The result of this bad planning was there to see on Thursday”, said Chetan Agarwal, an environment analyst.
As per the Gurgaon Manesar Urban Complex Master Plan, two-thirds of the city will be paved. But the plan does not provide for how to handle the exponential increase in run-off water.
The situation on Friday was particularly bad at Hero Honda chowk, where concretisation of the drain in parts amplified the speed and volume of water reaching the area.
A smaller second drain – Khandsa – couldn’t clear even a third of the water.
Matters might get much worse if the rain doesn’t abate. “Unless encroachments are removed downstream and the Khandsa drain widened, there is no solution to this problem,” said Raghuraman, head of the Millennium City Expressway Private Limited (MCEPL).
“The entire natural drainage of the city has been encroached, and built upon.”
In the first week of July, HT reported how a rainwater management system pioneered by the British using a series of embankments stood destroyed. The rush to build more apartments and commercial complexes ensured water channels, ravines and drains that absorbed the rainwater vanished in the last three decades.
Important embankments at Ghata, Jharsa, Chakkarpur, Nathupur and near the Sirhaul toll plaza have vanished, forcing water to take the road route.
Activist Ameena Shervani says the natural drain network is beyond repair. “The catchment areas of Ghata, Dhauj, Sultanpur have been encroached. They held so much water,” she said.
The solution, experts say, lies in reviving the natural drainage. “We need to revive them using artificial drains”, says Dr Sewa Ram from School of Planning and Architecture.
Rajvir Singh, former chief town planner, Haryana, says its a planning and engineering failure. “Why were the natural water bodies not preserved?, he asks.
Raghuraman said strong measures needed to be taken or else Gurgaon could face a Chennai-like situation. “I am from Chennai. All encroachments were removed and buildings cleared to ensure water can flow”.