IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 31st Oct 2020
“The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.” – Richard Bach
EDITORIAL HUNT #218 :“20 Points – Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC”
20 Points – Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC
Kabeer Arora is an urbanist working with Hyderabad Urban Lab.
Time for a ‘sponge cities’ mission in India
The idea needs traction at a time when discussion on urban flooding only reduces the problem to simple dichotomies
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 1 : 3 : Flood Management : Disaster Management
The idea of Sponge cities is delayed. The number of floods each year have only increased . Discuss Flood mitigation polices for sustainable future ahead -(GS 3)
- Metropolitans and Floods
- Reasons for Flash Floods
- What is a Sponge City ?
- Way Forward
- UNPREDICTABLE NATURE : Unbridled avarice and untrammelled urbanisation are back in currency, this time, in the wake of torrential rains of October in Hyderabad.
- SUBMERGED TOWN : Thousands of homes remain submerged two weeks after the flood.
- URBAN SETTLEMENTS : Barely five years ago, it was Chennai that saw a massive flood costing much damage and lives;
- METROPOLITANS AT STAKE : Gurugram over the past few years , and for Mumbai, the monsoon has become synonymous with flooding and enormous damages.
- ANTHROPOGENIC REASONS : Rampant deforestation and cutting of hills have only worsened the situation.
- CLIMATE CHANGE : The Rivers brings huge volume of water due to cloud bursts, which leads to flooding every year.
- LAND EROSION : This causes water to overflow in the low-lying areas every time a flood occurs.
- MINING AND DREDGING : Many environmentalists say that these engineering processes are conducted with little or no environmental assessment.
- NATURAL REASONS : Floods and landslides are usually caused when the average rainfall exceeds more than normal.
- UNPLANNED URBANISATION : Mountainous areas undergoing defrosting can result in increased amounts of water reaching the rivers, often increases the water table rapidly.
- MAPPING AND SURVEY : Incorporating storage space in the reservoirs could be considered as a preventive measure during the floods.
THE CASE OF HYDERABAD
A GRADUAL PROCESS
- ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2016: Breaking a 16-year record, Hyderabad received 16 cm of rain in a single day.
- IN SEPTEMBER 2017 : The city witnessed a 450% increase compared to the average rainfall it receives during this month;
- IN SEPTEMBER 2019 : the rainfall was the highest in 100 years, while in October it was in 62% in excess.
WHY HYDERABAD WAS DRENCHED?
- SEWAGE SYSTEM : The floods of October 2020 occurred because we did not discharge the water in time.
- RESERVOIRS : To put it bluntly, first our sluices did not open and then our bunds breached.
- ANTIQUATED INFRASTRUCTURE : Hyderabad’s century-old drainage system (developed in the 1920s) covered only a small part of the core city.
- DEMOGRAPHIC BURDEN : In the last 20 years, the city has grown at least four times its original built-up area.
- FAILURE OF DRAINAGE SYSTEM : The narrative of antiquated infrastructure conceals the fact that the city has grown rapidly, and into areas where there was no drainage infrastructure to begin with.
- EXPANDING BOUNDARIES : And as the city grew beyond its original limits, not much was done to address the absence of adequate drainage systems.
COMMUNITIES ARE LEFT OUT
- ATTITUDINAL GAPS : The manner in which we talk about recurring floods in the city often reduces to individual conduct versus faceless states action.
- COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT : This framing also disavows the role of local communities in managing local ecosystems — people with traditional rights for fishing and farming.
- WETLAND MANAGEMENT : We need to start paying attention to the management of our wetlands by involving local communities.
- SPONGE CITIES SCHEME : The risk is going to increase year after year with changing rainfall patterns and a problem of urban terrain which is incapable of absorbing, holding and discharging water.
MAKING CITIES PERMEABLE
- RESPONSIBILITIES : Urban floods of this scale cannot be contained by the municipal authorities alone.
- FUNDING : They cannot be managed without concerted and focused investments of energy and resources.
- MISSION MODE SETUP : Such investments can only be done in a mission mode organisation with active participation of civil society organisations at the metropolitan scale.
- MISSION OBJECTIVES : We need a mission that mitigates flood risk and provides a pathway to water security.
- PERMEABLE CITIES : The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it.
- URBAN AQUIFERS : Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers.
- GROUND WATER REJUVENATION : This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells.
- WATER TREATMENT FACILITY : This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.
- ECOSYSTEM SERVICES : It implies support for urban ecosystems, bio-diversity and newer cultural and recreational opportunities.
THESE CAN ALL BE DELIVERED EFFECTIVELY THROUGH
- Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
- National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and
- Smart Cities Mission.
SPONGE CITIES MISSION
On a top priority, such a mission should address the following.
- The first subject is wetland policy.
- In most of our lakes, the shallow ends, which often lie beyond the full tank level, have disappeared.
SOURCES : RESEARCH GATE
- Wetlands are sometimes owned by private individuals, other times existing as ecological commons.
- Regardless of ownership, land use on even this small scale needs to be regulated by development control.
WATERSHEDS, TERRAIN ALTERATION
- WATERSHED MANAGEMENT : Urban watersheds are micro ecological drainage systems, shaped by contours of terrain.
- DEMARCATING BOUNDARIES : We need to consider natural boundaries such as watersheds instead of governance boundaries like electoral wards for shaping a drainage plan.
- IMPLEMENTATION : The Metropolitan Development Authorities, NDMA, State revenue and irrigation departments along with municipal corporations should be involved.
- BAN ON TERRAIN ALTERATION : Lasting irreversible damage has been done to the city by builders, property owners, and public agencies by flattening terrain and altering drainage routes.
- NON-POROUS CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL : Our cities are becoming increasingly impervious to water, not just because of increasing built up but also because of the nature of materials used.
- SCIENTIFIC INTERVENTION : To improve the city’s capacity to absorb water, new porous materials and technologies must be encouraged or mandated across scales.
- RAINWATER HARVESTING : These not only reduce run-off and the load on infrastructure, but also help keep water in the city for later use.
STOP THE BLAME, START ACTION
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT : Acknowledging the role of different actors for the city can create a practical space to begin this work.
- DETERMINING FAULT LINES : Doing so will not just help control recurring floods but also respond to other fault lines.
- BUILDING RESILIENT STRUCTURES : Provide for water security, more green spaces, and will make the city resilient and sustainable.
- BLAME GAMES : The constant search for a scapegoat to blame, while a few people try what they can, limits our capacities and only creates cycles of devastation.
- LEARN ADAPT AND REGULATE : We can learn to live with nature, we can regulate human conduct through the state and we can strategically design where we build.
- SPONGE CITIES : We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water without causing so much misery .
- BETTER FLOOD FORECASTING : Information about floods forecasts must reach the affected villages in time.
- BANNING CONSTRUCTIONS : Ban all construction on low-lying floodplains.
- STRENGTHEN EMBANKMENTS : Create more room for the river, not restrict it.
How can we stop Mega Constructions around rivers? It is not making room for a river . River has its own room !
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | 20 Points – Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC