Map is being updated after 40 years, many drains identified back then no longer exist; experts say reviving natural drain network can prevent waterlogging.
With the monsoon arriving in Delhi over the weekend, residents and visitors to the Capital are making the most of the pleasant weather. That is, until heavy rains leave the Capital’s roads flooded.
Waterlogging, or urban flooding, is an annual feature in Delhi, despite the government and local bodies claiming they are prepared for the onslaught of the monsoon.
Every year, the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Irrigation and Flood Control (IFC) Department of the Delhi government, and the municipal corporations say their drains have been cleared of silt, to make way for rain water. But every year the tall claims are washed away as water collects on the streets, hitting traffic and movement in general.
Most important solution
According to experts, one of the most important solutions to the yearly flooding is reviving Delhi’s natural storm-water drainage network, which over the years has become lost due to being covered or encroached upon.
The Delhi government has been trying to do just that for years, but its efforts are yet to come to fruition.
The Sheila Dikshit government had commissioned a new drainage master plan for the city in 2012.
The project, given to the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, was cleared by Ms. Dikshit’s Cabinet in June 2012 and was supposed to have been completed in 18 months.
Four years on, the master plan has still not been completed. Prof. A.K. Gosain, who is leading the team working on the plan, told The Hindu that an interim report had been submitted to the IFC department, which had commissioned the project.
“We expect to complete the project by December this year. In the meantime, our interim report has certain suggestions that can be implemented right away,” said Prof. Gosain.
Engineers of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department working on the project said that the suggestions included a new policy to prevent covering up of drains and ensuring that de-silting is carried out regularly.
As per the IIT-Delhi team’s recommendations, the entire length of the drain should be used for drainage purposes only, and services and Metro should not be allowed to hinder the flow.
Another suggestion is that the sewerage system should be separated from the storm-water network.
Currently, untreated sewage flows into the storm-water drains illegally.
The report also suggests that new drains should be designed keeping in mind its flow and capacity.
Perhaps the most important, yet most basic, suggestion is that there should be only one agency responsible for natural drains in the city.
“What happens now is that we have jurisdiction over a particular drain, but the road belongs to the PWD. So we have to seek their permission to carry out de-silting as the silt will be removed and put on their road,” said an Irrigation and Flood Control engineer.
Environmentalists say that till the authorities know the exact state of Delhi’s drainage network, they can’t begin to revive it.
Manoj Misra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said that many of the drains identified in the last drainage master plan of the city — made in 1976 — did not exist on the ground anymore.
“Of the 201 drains in the 1976 master plan, 44 could not be traced. Though some of those were later found, there are many such drains that exist on record but not on the ground. Many of them were covered up unnecessarily,” said Mr. Misra.
For instance, the Defence Colony drain was covered up before the Commonwealth Games in 2010, said Mr. Misra, adding that the majority of the drains in Lutyens’ Delhi were also covered up over the years, leaving only the manholes open for cleaning.
“Just cleaning the manholes is not de-silting. There needs to be political will and we need to take a serious step by uncovering drains that are vulnerable to flooding,” said Mr.Misra.
It remains to be seen whether the “political will” to put an end to urban flooding can be found before the next monsoon.