DEFICIT & EXCESS RAINFALL BOTH BRING MISERIES
Experiences of recent past, on the weather front, may be, due to phenomenon of Climate Change, show that we are faced with miseries both during scarcity of rainfall as also when turns vigorous. Acute drought conditions in many European countries and China recently took its toll in many ways. While in Germany some ports were threatened, in Somalia due to Famine conditions, nearly 8 million people suffered.
CRISIS IN CHINA & PAKISTAN
2) In China, due to acute shortage of rainfall ,major lakes and rivers dried up, first leading to Water Supply Red Alerts and reduced quantum of water affected production of crops and hydel power to a large extent. 267 weather monitoring stations of the country had reported record temperature in August. Efforts were made to seed clouds as well.
3) The country while fighting a fresh battle with resurgence of Covid-19, ensured short period relief in some areas after use of artificial rainfall devices.Such trying situations had not even got over that floods played tremendous havoc in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab provinces of Pakistan which resulted into death of over 1600 and lakhs of people became homeless.
4) Stagnant water continues to pose several health threats even now in Pakistan, in addition to shortage of essential commodities for the internal refugees.Total flood losses are estimated at $ 28 Billions in a cash strapped country. India, being its immediate neighbour can help but obstinate attitude of P.M.of Pakistan comes in between. In a strange turn of events, USA, after sending relief material to Pakistan, has asked her to seek Debt relief from China.
5) Talking of India, we had a series of cloud bursts, landslides and floods in J & K, H.P, Uttarakhand and other hill states,followed by a massive rainfall for four to five days in Bengaluru, a fortnight ago. It resulted into as much as 136.1 mm of rainfall in one day. Till 7th of September, the silicon valley of India had received 1011 mm of rain. It was much higher than the average annual rainfall of 490 mm. Such an adverse situation was faced last by the city in 2015. Due to rain fury, life in the city appeared devastating.Connectivity among several lakes was lost and cases of large scale encroachments of drains came to notice.Stranding of vehicles and use of tractors appeared a common sight in residential areas for many days.
North & East India
6) Coming to North India and parts of East India, it was extreme heat for a long period, followed by normal rain.But in August, situation could be considered deficient.As a result, Kharif output has reduced by four percent already.
Rains returned on 21st September and continued for four days. This spell of intense and unusual rain in NCR and North India has impacted harvesting work considerably. Four satellite towns of national capital were paralysed. Offices and schools had to be closed and ‘pooling’ of water in residential colonies and highways created havoc. Mixing of sewer water with stagnant water can be really nauseating.In such situations, Driving on footpath too becomes rampant. Social media messages too add to the level of anxieties,like fuel to the fire.
7) Whenever there is an excessive rain of this scale, we speak about general apathy of municipal administration. Afterall, towns and metros bear the brunt , not the villages, or may be, suburbs.Well to do people keep their swanky houses spic and span but generate unnecessary garbage and dump the same outside their houses. Due to least interest for construction of new drains, unfavourable flow pattern, mushrooming of slums, and dumping of construction materials on roads, stormwater does not get an outlet. Either, it enters into compound of another person or keeps on accumulating till located by pedestrians and vehicle drivers.
POT HOLES ALL OVER
8) Long spells of water logging results into more potholes at every ten feet or so. While the Four wheelers may get a jerk or two , the two wheelers get overturned or get stuck in no time. Some of the riders get electrocuted while many get partly drowned into open sewers. Less said about plight of morning walkers, cyclists and pedestrians is better.
9) It is not that drains donot exist in most of the places, it is that these get blocked over a period of time, may be, by unauthorised building of more shops and flats. By the time, same is identified, it is too late. In a place like New Delhi a standard drill is supposed to be carried out officially in NDMC areas on the eve of Monsoon every year. Yet we see its inefficacy year after year.
COVERAGE BY MEDIA
10) Media too appears biased in reporting during such disaster or collapse situations.Loss of Crores of Rupees suffered by the private companies,especially MNC’s, on a daily basis is highlighted for days but additional burden on public excheqor hardly finds a mention. In the same way, income loss and setback to daily wagers, domestic maids, pavement stalls,vegetable and milk sellers etc. rarely gets highlighted or reported. Moreover, camera shots too are taken from vantage locations which can be easily accessed. Once in blue moon, one finds a reporter getting into inundated areas or susceptible slip zones.
SUGGESTED REMEDIAL STEPS
11) In a nutshell, following steps should be taken both in pre-rainfall period AND also immediately after withdrawal of Monsoon :
***Not only urban local bodies but Nagar Panchayats need to pull up their sleeves, when likelihood of waterborne diseases and Dengue is maximum,
***Rainwater harvesting in such “Ati-Bristi” situations is very much called for,
*** Ban on construction work during Monsoon in hill areas has to be strictly enforced. Also dumping of construction materials on roadside should not be allowed,
*** A system of heavy fine needs to be imposed on those found guilty in violating Civic rules, perpetrating encroachments and blocking roads by parking extra vehicles on approach roads inside a colony,
***Media should be more proactive than before and get trained in taking some risks in public interest,
*** Works of immediate nature should not be executed by private contractors in the garb of departmental works.These serve no purpose,
*** Good quality and long lasting raw materials should be used for patch works on roads frequently in use, as temporary works mostly get worn out soon and add to the inconvenience factor,
*** Equal care of arterial roads is called for urgently, as these get overburdened when main roads temporarily take the shape of rivers as in case of Bengaluru and Gurugram recently,
*** Some of repair or permanent works can be taken up under Smart City scheme as there should be no bar on innovations therein.
If taken seriously, above steps may ensure sought after relief and succour to common man and sustainable urban planning ,management and control mechanism may be also see light of the day.
(The author is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim)