When it rains in the national capital, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere
Five municipal bodies and two government agencies, one of them the state and the other under the Centre, manage roads and drains in the national capital. Rampant flooding of roads, markets, hospitals and residential colonies on Wednesday showed their collective failure, and exposed their lack of preparedness to deal with waterlogging during monsoon.
Besides the three municipal corporations -- East, North and South, the city has a cantonment board for administering areas under the defence establishments, and the New Delhi Municipal Council for managing civic affairs in the New Delhi and Lutyens zones. The Delhi government’s public works department (PWD) — essentially a construction agency — and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) which comes under the Union government also manage roads and drains in their respective jurisdictions.
City residents described the situation as the “same story repeating over the years”, and experts said that Delhi’s civic infrastructure has not been upgraded commensurate with the increase in population.
Besides the usual road stretches that are waterlogged every time it rains in Delhi, Wednesday witnessed roads in NDMC areas and Lutyens’ zone such as Connaught Place and Chanakyapuri going under the water. A large number of residential areas also reported knee-deep waterlogging with stormwater entering the basements and ground floor houses in many areas such as Rajendra Nagar, Karol Bagh, Pamposh Enclave, Saket, Krishna Nagar and Geeta Colony, among others.
Delhi received the highest single-day rain received in September in the past 19 years, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD). The city received 112.1mm rain in 24 hours, ending 8.30 am Wednesday. An additional 75.6mm rain was recorded over three hours between 8.30am and 11.30am, the Met department said.
Experts said little has been done to upgrade the infrastructure or address the problem in entirety, and only piecemeal measures have been taken over the last decade. They also pointed out the lack of a comprehensive stormwater drainage network, multiplicity of authorities and lack of monitoring as other reasons why no lasting solution has been found yet to the annual mess.
Experts stressed on the need to have a single agency for maintenance of drainage network so that accountability can be fixed and work can be done in a systematic manner. They also stressed on the need to immediately implement the drainage master plan, which was prepared by IIT-Delhi experts in 2016.
Till 2011, the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi was largely responsible for the maintenance of drainage along all colony and arterial roads (that are less than 100-ft wide). But in 2011, the then Congress government transferred the upkeep of 60-foot and wider roads to the Delhi PWD. Later, the drains along these arterial roads were also transferred to PWD even as the maintenance of drainage in residential areas remained with the civic bodies.
Though waterlogging has been a perennial problem, it has become worse since 2011, said Sarvagya Srivastava, former engineer-in-chief, PWD.
Former MCD commissioner KS Mehra said there should be one agency in-charge of desilting and maintenance of the drainage network, as it is important to fix responsibility. “But the most important thing is that the city needs a proper drainage system. The drainage plan prepared by IIT-Delhi should be implemented at the earliest,” said Mehra.
The last drainage master plan was drafted by the Delhi administration in 1976. To be sure, Delhi was administered by a metropolitan council between 1966 and 1990. In 2016, the Delhi government commissioned a study of the city’s drainage system by IIT-Delhi. Following the study, a drainage master plan was compiled which had also pointed out to the fact that the city had no single agency to manage and maintain drainage. However, the plan could not be implemented.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government is now working on the Delhi Drainage Masterplan. At a review meeting on August 25, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the design of city drains will be changed according to the suggestions by an expert team from IIT-Delhi to ensure smooth flow of water during and after heavy rains and resolve waterlogging on roads during monsoon.
There are about 2,846 drains in Delhi with a combined length of about 3,692km. Most of these drains are maintained by PWD.
Srivastava said in many areas there was no sewerage lines due to which storm water drains also carry sewage. “The stormwater drains of residential colonies and along arterial roads should be separate. But in several cases, we found that these were connected. The storm water drains along arterial roads are designed according to the road capacity. Waterlogging is bound to happen if it carries additional water, including sewage, from residential neighbourhoods,” said Srivastava.