Monday Musings: Will another 50 people die in next year’s floods?
The Pune Municipal Corporation’s decision to build a retaining wall along Ambil Odha and direct builders to construct retaining walls on their upcoming projects along rivers and canals is a welcome step. What we now need is good execution with fixed timelines and deadlinesUpdated: Nov 18, 2019 14:33 IST
Last week, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Standing Committee- the powerful decision-making body of elected representatives- took some important decisions with regards to the havoc caused during the recent monsoon.
More than 50 people died in the city in the heavy rains and flash floods this monsoon. The deaths were primarily due to wall collapses and flash floods caused by water spilling out of constricted natural streams and canals passing through the city.
The most conspicuous of these flash floods were in the Ambil Odha canal where more than 20 deaths occurred and there was colossal damage to personal property, estimated at more than Rs 200 crore.
There was another inexcusable tragedy in the Aundh-Wakad area where the basement of the multi-storied Jupiter Hospital saw heavy flooding. The hospital was forced to switch off electric supply in the entire building and consequently, the oxygen supply was also cut and more than 100 patients— including those critical and in the ICU (intensive care unit)-- were brought down by the stairs, evacuated and moved to other hospitals.
Why do walls collapse and kill people during heavy rains? Is it because they are poorly constructed and no one from the PMC has bothered to do safety audits?
Why does heavy flooding occur in the natural streams, rivers and canals passing through the city? Is it because of blatant floodline violation by builders and developers, the diversion and encroachment of streams and canals to facilitate building projects?
In fact, these were the very factors that were held responsible for the floods by Pune municipal commissioner Saurabh Rao and former commissioner and senior bureaucrat Mahesh Zagade, soon after the Ambil Odha tragedy.
On this backdrop, the Standing Committee’s directive to builders and developers to build retaining walls on their upcoming projects along rivers and canals in the city is a welcome step. The PMC on its part has decided to build a retaining wall along Ambil Odha at a cost of Rs 300 crore, and also rehabilitate 26 families who lived on the banks of this stream.
Along with these important decisions, the civic body also needs to take steps to prevent wall collapse tragedies that were seen this monsoon. So far, this has not received any attention from the PMC.
Now comes the most important part and that is of execution. The PMC has exactly six months in hand till June, 2020, to implement its decision. This would mean that the retaining walls would need to be constructed on a war footing by the PMC and the builders. This can be achieved only if a survey of vulnerable locations is completed quickly and appropriate timelines and deadlines are set as a part of this mission.
Let us see how things progress from here on. Do watch this space for regular updates.