Why Do Bengaluru Roads Turn Into Canals Every Monsoon?

With poor urban planning and a collapsed drainage network, Bengalureans face the worst of monsoon every year.

Updated
India
4 min read
A recent report on the Chief Minister’s review of civic works shows that just 5% of the proposed new drains have been completed.
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Imagine waking up to Independence Day to find your bedroom flooded. But checking-in to a hotel room is a distant dream, because the road in front of your house has turned into a river overnight. You are now under house-arrest. Helplessness turns into frustration, which then grows into rage.

This is the rage thousands of Bengalureans have been living with for several years, as crores of tax money pumped into civic works has gone down the drain, the city’s roads transform into canals every time the sky opens.

Why is Tax Money Going Down the Drain?

Over Rs 800 crores has been spent for remodelling the drains in the city, but what has gone wrong with Bengaluru’s drainage system and where did your tax money go?

When Bengaluru witnessed flooding in several parts of the city in July 2016, the Karnataka government had announced the construction of 192 km of drains. But a recent report on the Chief Minister’s review of civic works shows that just 5% of these drains have been completed in over a year.

But what about the existing drains?

These drains, over the years, have been clogged with construction debris and garbage. Every year, Bengaluru’s civic body, the BBMP, is expected to undertake the desilting of these drains to ensure water flows smoothly when the rains hit.

But guess what? The BBMP has managed to leave that task incomplete as well. While the BBMP was supposed to desilt 189.3 km drains before the monsoon, only 102 km was desilted, stated the review report.

Why Do Bengaluru Roads Turn Into Canals Every Monsoon?
 

Problem not limited to Infrastructure

Three areas that were severely affected in Tuesday’s downpour were HSR Layout, Anugraha Layout in Bilekahalli and Shinivagilu Tank Bed Layout (ST Bed Layout) in Koramangala. The common factor among the three areas is that they are built on wetlands or lake beds.

When rainwater goes beyond the carrying capacity of the drains, it finds an alternative route. The water, then, naturally ends up flowing to low-lying areas.

Significantly, two of the flooded areas, HSR Layout and ST Bed Layout, were developed over lake beds by Bangalore Development Authority (BDA).

Why is Southeast Bengaluru Most Affected by Rain?
Areas in southeast Bengaluru have been worst affected by waterlogging. Experts say that depression in the Bay of Bengal has caused heavy rainfall in the city and southeast Bengaluru is the entry point for the rain clouds. GS Srinivasa Reddy, Director, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Centre, explains that as southeast Bengaluru is densely populated, the heat-island created attracts water-bearing clouds.

Recipe for disaster

Urban planner Ravichandar Venkatraman says Bengaluru is looking at the perfect storm in the future. “Firstly, Bengaluru has rampant, unplanned growth. Disrespecting nature, we have occupied the low-lying areas of the city. For these occupied areas, there is no mechanism for stormwater dispersal.”

Why Do Bengaluru Roads Turn Into Canals Every Monsoon?

Why are we transporting rainwater?

Ashwin Mahesh, an urban planning expert, however, believes the very idea of transporting rainwater through stormwater drains is wrong.

Why Do Bengaluru Roads Turn Into Canals Every Monsoon?

Mahesh goes on to add that the water, which is not absorbed by the soaking pits, will need to be channelled. However, we have been using the wrong design of drainages.

“It is scientifically proven that water moves faster in a cylindrical space than rectangular space, but except for the TenderSure roads in Bengaluru, we have rectangular drainages. Such changes need good engineering minds. But all we have is repeated cheap construction leading to cost and quality failure,” points out Mahesh.

Sewage and garbage replace Rainwater

Bengaluru’s stormwater drain network is over 850km. While it’s supposed to channel stormwater during the rains, and be empty the rest of the year, reality is different, with the drains filled with sewage and garbage, says Naresh Narasimhan, architect and urban activist.

Why Do Bengaluru Roads Turn Into Canals Every Monsoon?

Lack of political will

The solution, Narasimhan says, is simply putting heads together and having the political will to act. “There could be two things, either those in power are unwilling to take action or they have no clue what to do. I believe number one is the reason… I’m also beginning to think there is an intellectual vacuum in the government… there are urban experts, but they are not in governance,” concludes Narasimhan.

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