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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Respect natural topography of city to deal with monsoon woes

The natural drainage of the city must be taken into account while planning. Also, unnecessary concretising of the city’s elements, be it footpaths, drains, etc, should be stopped.

gurugram Updated: Aug 07, 2019 12:05 IST
Amit Bhatt
Amit Bhatt
Vehicles wade through a waterlogged road after rains, at IFFCO Chowk, in Gurugram,  on Tuesday, 6 August 2019.
Vehicles wade through a waterlogged road after rains, at IFFCO Chowk, in Gurugram, on Tuesday, 6 August 2019. (Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)

As I wrote this piece on Tuesday morning, my mind was debating whether I should attempt going to the office? Yes, attempt. That’s because 15 minutes of rain can bring Gurugram to a standstill. We saw a snippet of this last Friday when roads on both sides of Iffco Chowk caved in and four major intersections—Genpact Chowk, Sikanderpur, AIT Chowk and the Ghata T-point—were flooded after just an hour of rain. Therefore, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the streets when it had drizzled all night.

Working from home may not be a bad idea at all especially when the alternative is to be stuck in a traffic jam for hours. Yes, the Metro is a good option in such times, but reaching the Metro station also poses similar challenges.

What is really strange is that while on the one hand, Gurugram struggles to cope with the monsoon rain, on the other hand it also faces a severe groundwater crisis. It is also an open secret that many parts in Gurugram don’t even get the basic minimum water supply in summers. The question, therefore, is can Gurugram do a better job in addressing this monsoon madness? I surely think so.

Let me explain how.

1. Respect topography of the city: Most of the planning in our cities, Gurugram included, is done without taking into account the natural topography. Undulation, natural drainage systems, etc are not considered for planning. The area is flattened to maximize the area of developable land. There are also projects like the underpass at Rajiv Chowk that block the natural drain. With no drainage, even a moderate rain causes flooding.

Therefore, development plans, housing schemes etc must be developed by considering the natural drainage profile on the city. Also, a project that blocks the natural drainage should not be approved, unless there is an alternate drainage plan. Topographical conditions of the area and the natural drainage should be respected and preserved in all development projects of any city.

2. Concrete is not the only solution: It’s unfortunate that for most people living in urban areas, the solution to most problems lies in more construction, which means using building materials such as bitumen, steel and cement. This is not only wrong, but is many cases it aggravates the problem instead of solving it.

The city has seen, in many instances, right from roads to drains or from public spaces to parks and playgrounds and rows of plantations getting concretized. The result is that water can’t be absorbed and with encroached and blocked drains, the water is stagnant for hours and days.

Waterlogging was not an issue in Gurugram till it entered this millennia because the city had enough porous spaces for water to seep through. Therefore, the city needs to have permeable spaces which can easily be done by turfing, using interlocking tiles, etc.

3. Make infrastructure resilient: There is growing evidence from the climate change fraternity that the changes in atmospheric conditions have resulted in, and will continue to result in, extreme weather events. While climate change is a complex subject that is being debated and addressed at international levels, many resulting issues are crippling our cities, such as downpour and deluge. Therefore, cities need to plan for resilient infrastructure and the built environment.

For example, it can be easily seen in Gurugram that a slight downpour causes the failure of traffic signals, but the city can overcome this by investing in all-weather signals. Yes, they will be costly, but their impact is also very high. Similarly, innovations such as porous bitumen should also be tested, especially in parking areas.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Therefore, we must realize that we are living in a world where the unexpected will happen and such situations are going to occur, be it natural or man-made. Therefore, the city should be ready on two counts—planning and preparedness for action.

Therefore, the natural drainage of the city must be taken into account while planning. Unnecessary concretizing of the city’s elements, be it footpath, drains, etc should be stopped. The city should invest in green and resilient infrastructure and projects such as the Bio Diversity Park should not only be preserved and protect, but also scaled up.


(Amit Bhatt is the director- integrated transport, WRI India)

First Published: Aug 07, 2019 12:05 IST