This is freshly reminted Guru Gram’s first great date to remember, the day the cars stood still. Residents of this promised land will remember it with loathing, and the monsoon will now come with foreboding.
But it wasn’t always like this, not in the pre-Y2K years when the silvery manic buses of Haryana Roadways would make it to this sleepy district headquarters from Dhaula Kuan in 25 minutes flat. No matter what.
Here’s a perspective on how it happened. Gurgaon is a mostly sandy bowl-shaped region. Monsoon runoff from the surrounding higher ground, essentially the Aravallis towards Faridabad, would drain into Gurgaon. A system of networked drainage channels, punctuated by check dams, would divert the water towards larger ones like the Najafgarh Drain, and the excess would be gone.
They would say “Jharsa baandh mein paani chadh gaya hai (the water level is rising in the Jharsa dam)”, is the childhood memory of my 75-year-old mother who was born in Gurgaon village. She recalls how her brothers would go out to gaze at the yearly Jharsa spectacle. The worst she remembers is “maybe a couple of inches of water” in the outlying fruit orchards of the Gurgaon village zamindars, and that too “wouldn’t last a day before it seeped into the ground”.
Now there are no bandhs, no drainage, no checks. There are plateaus of concrete that do not let rainwater seep through. Now there is a new national highway cutting through the cyberhalla of Haryana’s “happening city”.
The drainage networks have been filled in and built over by the BHK brigades. It’s a circulatory system clogged with cement, and it doesn’t work anymore.
Worse, the new drains aren’t slanted smartly enough to be efficient at their one job. They don’t connect like they should, and, worst of all, even these aren’t being desilted.
In the middle of this mess is NH8, dipping, curving, rising though litters of underpasses and service roads. Add to this a vehicular population that planners obviously never saw coming, sprinkle it with lines of generally ill-behaved Kanwarias of the monsoon month, and all it takes is less than 5 cm of rain in a 24-hour period to jam it up.
Guru Gram is a monster already. Yamuna water is being picked up before Delhi and pumped up a slope to quench its growing thirst. Homes are scarce, and murderously expensive. Power supply is erratic and prone to breakdowns. Traffic is a nightmare through the year.
Some years ago, we paid Rs 42 every day on NH8 to get to our workplaces and back. That lunacy was wiped away by the tsunami of traffic that Guru Gram suffers every day.
Now there’s this. Where do we go from here?
(The author is a long-time resident of Gurgaon)