Pre-monsoon showers recently brought cities like Bathinda and Ludhiana to a complete standstill due to waterlogging. Every year, the three ‘Smart Cities’ of Punjab — Ludhiana, Jalandhar & Amritsar and Badals’ bastion Bathinda (which was at the centre of every development plan during ten years of SAD-BJP government), witness massive waterlogging even in posh areas and on highways. The Indian Express explains why the existing drainage system fails to deal with even pre-monsoon showers.
What is the root cause of waterlogging problem in Punjab?
IIT-Bombay professor Dr Kapil Gupta from civil engineering department, with expertise in urban drainage & storm water management, had in 2014-15 conducted a study in association with the World Bank to prepare a ‘Master Drainage Plan’ (stormwater drainage system) for Amritsar and Ludhiana. The report recommended solutions to reduce flooding.
Dr Gupta says that like many other cities in the country, rapid urbanisation, unplanned and rampant new constructions, growing concrete jungles, lack of green spaces to soak water, solid waste dumping in water drainage channels, increasing width of roads, increasing population — were some of the reasons found in Ludhiana and Amritsar. There should be no encroachments on the natural drainage channels of the city, says Prof Gupta but the ground reality is that civic bodies fail to clean drains before monsoons and people also dump garbage and debris in them for rest of the year. So when monsoons arrive, they remain clogged leading to waterlogging.
What is stormwater drainage system? Do cities in Punjab having this system?
Stormwater drainage system is a network of channels to drain rainwater or waste water. Having a stormwater drainage system means creating infrastructure of underground pipes and channels to create a proper path for rainwater to reach rivers, streams etc. If pipe/channel carry both rainwater and waste water, then it is called combined drainage system. According to Dr Gupta, both Amritsar and Ludhiana have ‘combined’ system.
No, not a single city or town in Punjab is having 100 per cent stormwater drainage system. According to Mukul Soni, Chief Engineer, Local Bodies Department, “Amritsar’s walled city area is having 50 per cent stormwater drainage while in Ludhiana it is just around 30 per cent. No city or town in Punjab has 100 per cent stormwater drainage yet.”
But even stormwater channels and roadside ditches remain clogged with garbage like in Ludhiana where they were installed on Ludhiana-Ferozepur highway but even then this road witnesses massive waterlogging as they fail to work. Even the rainwater harvesting pits remain choked with garbage.
Is there any plan to have stormwater drainage system in Punjab cities?
In 2014-15, then Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal had announced Rs 1,000 crore for stormwater drainage system in entire Ludhiana city and the World Bank study was to be the basis of the entire project. While the study was completed by Prof Gupta, the project on the ground remains incomplete. Not even 30 per cent city is covered under stormwater drainage system and in the parts where it is there, it doesn’t work properly.
Chief Engineer Soni claims that stormwater drainage projects are at ‘tendering stage’ now for Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar under ‘Smart City’ plans. “Stormwater projects for Amritsar (Rs 65 crore), Jalandhar (Rs 30 crore) and Ludhiana (Rs 50 crore) are in tendering stage. Currently, our focus will be main cities only. We are moving towards 100 per cent stormwater drainage in these cities,” he says.
So what went wrong in Bathinda? Why even posh areas were inundated including the DC’s residence and office?
Director, Local Bodies, Punjab, Karnesh Sharma says that he has ‘sought a report’ from Bathinda Municipal Corporation on why city witnessed flooding. “In some parts, old drainage system is a problem but we had sanctioned required budget to MC to clean drains and channels in advance. I have sought a report..,” he says. Chief Engineer Soni, meanwhile, says that cities such as Bathinda and Jalandhar are ‘saucer shaped’ due to which rainwater fails to get ‘natural gravity flow’. “Bathinda has a mixture of storm water drainage and sullage system. But it has a saucer shaped topography. MC also failed to get drains cleaned,” he adds.
Bathinda MC Commissioner Rishipal Singh said that sewage board had hired a private company for installing new sewage lines and maintaining old ones for Rs 288 crore but they failed to do so. “A company Triveni was hired five years back for Rs 288 crore and it was their job to get drains cleaned in advance. They failed to their job. We are penalizing them. They were hired because we don’t have staff to get cleaning done at our level,” he said.
For Ludhiana, Director Sharma says, “I have no idea why flooding happens in Ludhiana everytime despite MC getting required funds to clean the drains. It only means that MC fails to get them cleaned..”
How urban flooding can be reduced?
According to Prof Kapil Gupta, several infrastructural improvements are required. Firstly, the existing drainage path should be well demarcated. There should be no encroachments on the natural drainage channels of the city. Secondly, a large number of bridges, flyovers and metro projects are being constructed with their supporting columns located in the existing drainage channels. This can be avoided using proper engineering designs. Storage of rainwater in tanks at the rooftop, intermediate, ground or underground levels can reduce the overflows.
Storage or holding ponds should also be provided at judiciously selected locations to store water during heavy rainfall so that it does not cause downstream flooding. “It has also been observed that roads are surfaced and resurfaced several times, thus increasing their level above the plinth-level. The Indian Roads Congress has recommended that whenever a road is resurfaced, the existing layer be scraped first and then the new layer be laid. This shall ensure that the plinth level and the road level remain where they were prior to the resurfacing. Also, various cities, across the world, have constructed porous pavements. These allow the water to gradually infiltrate into the underlying soil thereby maintaining the pre-development sub-soil water conditions,” he says, adding: “More green spaces should be created to soak water naturally.”