Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We lack basic city infrastructure

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The 69mm rain in New Delhi was enough to cripple the National Capital for hours which also took away the lives of 10 people. This is not an isolated occurrence, from Mumbai to Bangalore and from Kolkata to Surat all our major cities seem to lack basic infrastructure. Sadly, this phenomena is not restricted to only metros but every small and big city and town in the country faces floods and water logging due to the lack of a proper drainage system.

History has shown us that the Great river valley civilizations in Harappa and Mesopotamia had understood the importance of water drainage and built their cities to drain out the water. It may surprise many but the Harappan civilization had built covered underground drainage system 3000 years ago. Proper drains let alone the covered ones are a distant dream in most of our cities and towns especially in the smaller ones.

It seems very ironical that the we wait for the monsoon for the entire year and when finally the skies open up we curse it for causing floods and water logging. Most of our town and cities face severe water shortage for most of the year yet we have done very little towards water harvest. We just allow the abundant supply water which comes our way to flood our cities and they make their way into the oceans leaving us dry for most of the year.

The city planners seem to be more interested in building flyovers and metros and shopping malls. These are seen as an yardstick to judge the vibrancy of our cities. Their obsession with these superstructures is so much that tend to ignore the basic issue of drainage. With all the satellite images and facility of Global Positioning System we still haven't been able to protect the low lying areas in all the major big cities which get flooded every monsoon.

All our cities have something called a 'Master Plan' to meet with the demands of a growing city. But our execution has been so poor that each year the loopholes seem to magnify. The civil society also contributes its share to the problem by not adhering to the building norms set by the the city planners. What we need is not bigger infrastructures but basic infrastructure.


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