Gurugram better equipped to deal with rain this year, but work remains
With monsoon expected to hit Gurugram by the end of this month, civic authorities are in a race against time to ensure the city is well equipped to deal with possible waterlogging, which brings with it an onslaught of traffic snarls, health and sanitation issues.
An analysis of the measures taken to prevent waterlogging and the extent to which they were successful over the last two years, has revealed both successes and failures.
Although 2016 is remembered for Gurujam – heavy rainfall that led to massive waterlogging and gridlocked the entire city, leaving commuters stranded on the roads for several hours – 2017 saw an improvement in the situation, with the problem becoming severe on only two days of the season. It remains to be seen how effective the precautionary measures adopted this year, many of which are still being put in place, will be.
Even as officials of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) said they are working at a fast pace, they conceded that 40% of the drains across the city are yet to be cleaned. Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) officials, similarly, said that tenders for cleaning the drains have not even been allotted for some stretches until now.
“Around 60% of the drains have been cleaned. The remaining 40% are located majorly along main roads, where work is being done in coordination with GMDA,” ND Vashisht, chief engineer of MCG, said.
Cleaning drains, however, Vashisht warned, is unlikely to resolve the problem of waterlogging at certain stretches, such as Subhash Chowk on Sohna Road, where rainwater may remain stagnant for a few hours due to the low capacity of the drains. He said that the MCG is in the process of desilting drains along the Old Delhi Road, and is awaiting clearance from the forest department.
With time running out to clean the drains, Yashpal Yadav, the MCG commissioner, in an order on June 20, directed officials to stall payment to contractors engaged in cleaning drains for the civic body until a ‘work satisfactory report’ on the condition of drains is approved by the councillor and official of the ward concerned.
In addition, GMDA CEO V Umashankar also said that the GMDA and MCG are yet to allot tenders for desilting work at some stretches. While Umashankar did not disclose these locations, MCG officials said that these include the Old Delhi Gurgaon Road and parts of sectors 27 and 43.
Aside from cleaning drains, a major problem is that the work on expanding the Badshahpur drain at Khandsa village, identified as the main cause for the 2016 deluge, is still not finished.
On June 9, the extent to which this makes the city vulnerable was revealed as two hours of moderate rainfall led to the overflow of the Badshahpur drain, near Khandsa village. As a result, the newly inaugurated Hero Honda Chowk underpass, a service lane and two carriageways of the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway—a four-kilometre stretch between the Hero Honda Chowk and the Kherki Daula toll plaza— were submerged, leading to crippling traffic along the expressway and leading to congestion that took around four hours to clear.
In addition, areas such as MDI Chowk, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, Sector 4/7 dividing road, sectors 9 and 22, Hans Enclave near Rajiv Chowk and Sohna Road, were also waterlogged.
Umashankar, however, reassured that the “city is prepared, to a large extent, to control waterlogging this season”. He said that the GMDA, the nodal agency to tackle waterlogging, formed a committee of senior and engineering department officials of all civic bodies in April for this purpose, and subsequently, held meetings to discuss the monsoon preparedness measures in the city.
The GMDA CEO also said that measures are being taken to ensure that underpasses are not waterlogged, with officials intending to release more than 70,000 litres of water at the junctions along the expressway.
This test was carried out at the Rajiv Chowk underpass on May 26, followed by the Hero Honda Chowk underpass, which was tested on June 8.
To prevent waterlogging on the expressway, the NHAI has installed 40 pumps. A mock drill was also carried out by the authority to ensure that the water could be pumped out without fail, in case of an emergency.
While the smaller pumps can handle 230 litres of water per minute, the heavy-duty machines can release 7,200 litres of water per minute. Five pumps have been installed at Rajiv Chowk and two pump operators have been deployed.
Similarly, four pumps have been installed at Signature Tower, 10 pumps at Iffco Chowk and four heavy-duty pumps at Hero Honda Chowk.
Experts, however, are sceptical of the credibility of these reassurances. “That the city is not prepared is a given. However, since Gurugram is a new city, there is a wide perception that issues such as faulty infrastructure should not be the case. But since the city was developed in patches, there was no coordinated effort among agencies and hence, amenities, such as drainage, took a hit,” Mukta Naik, senior researcher, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, said.
“The city is a low-lying area and is hence, prone to waterlogging. After the 2016 fiasco, a lot of momentum was spent on forming the GMDA rather than executing engineering changes. Even a 60% estimate given by the authorities, with regard to monsoon preparedness, seems a hyperbole,” Naik said.
In 2016, massive waterlogging and the subsequent traffic gridlock, on July 28, served as a wake-up call for officials and civic bodies. After the deluge, it was also revealed that most drains in the city had not been cleaned that year, with MCG officials admitting to having cleaned only 35% of the total network.
TL Satyaprakash, the then MCG commissioner, had conceded, in the wake of the waterlogging, that the civic body had made a vital engineering mistake in utilising, for the first time in Gurugram’s history, drain boxes, which were introduced to reduce the sediment outflow into the drains, and prevent clogging.
After placing them in the drains, most of the boxes were not cleaned even once, and instead of unclogging drains, there was no space left for water to flow through. These were removed after the incident.
In June 2017, to ensure there is no repeat of the 2016 events, the state government had appointed V Umashankar, then MCG commissioner as the nodal officer for monsoon preparedness and coordination among agencies.
One of the first steps taken by Umashankar was to ensure that there was enough manpower to tackle a flood-like situation. As many as 200 home guards, 50 MCG employees and 300 red cross society members were deployed to assist residents during monsoon.
Agencies had also managed to clean the drains before June 30, 2017. With the Badshapur drain widening work not being completed last year, 19 motor pumps were installed at Hero Honda Chowk to ensure that water does not accumulate at the junction.
Only on two days in the entire 2017 monsoon — June 16 and 19 — were there jams due to waterlogging on the expressway. However, the jams were severe and lasted for six hours each.