Bengaluru: Residents of India's Silicon Valley are dreading the next bout of unseasonal thunderstorms and rains. Reason: the persistent and heavy rains witnessed in the city over the last few days is wreaking havoc on its inadequate infrastructure, with long traffic snarls, flooded roads, uprooted trees and power outages becoming the new normal.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the city’s civic body) is scrambling to get its act right this time around too. “We have already installed hundreds of rainfall gauges at various parts of the city", Manjunath Prasad, Commissioner of the BBMP, said in a statement.
Control centres have been set up at each of the 8 zones and 64 subdivisions of the BBMP, equipped with chainsaws, hammers, rope, gum-boots, etc. The BBMP has also deployed 21 forest teams to clear out broken branches and clear out uprooted trees.
The civic body has also introduced an app called Sidilu (Kannada for lightening) which will provide early warning services for adverse weather conditions.
The city has a history of flooding during heavy rains. Early this week, for instance, several areas such as Bannerghatta road, Mico layout and BTM layout witnessed flooding. People were left stranded with no way home as the city’s already dreadful traffic problem was exacerbated.
It was even more difficult for people to avail public transport such as buses and cabs. Bengaluru’s storm water drain systems (SWD) are also vastly underdeveloped, are often overwhelmed with the intensity of rains, and do little to help flooding.
According to the state’s disaster management centre, the city saw moderate rainfall of 17.6-35.5mm early this week.
The BBMP has allocated Rs. 20-30 lakh each for the city’s 198 wards, for desilting of SWD’s. Though the civic body has made allocations, it has consistently fallen behind in implementation. Rs. 1321 crore were allocated for development of storm water drains (SWD) alone for the year 2019-20. This was a 265% jump since last year’s allocation of Rs. 361.9 crore, but the city continues to experience flooding.
“[Our storm water drains] have been designed decades ago, when the peak rainfall assumption was 75mm/h (millimetre/hour), but in the last decade, we have already had multiple instances where the rainfall was 125mm/h.", says V.Ravichandar, an urban development expert. Further, he says a lot of SWDs do not empty into the nearest lakes but bypass them, and this needs to be rectified.
The corporation has also taken measures to control and prevent the spread of water-borne diseases. The BBMP has made arrangements to get details of diseases from hospitals online, so that necessary measures can be taken. Medicines for common water-borne diseases have also been made available in all government hospitals.
The heavy rains also left various parts of the city without electricity, which also meant many areas’ street lights failed. “A majority of these power cuts have been due to trees falling on utility poles, which led to the snapping of power lines", says Ravi Kumar, chairman of Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd (BESCOM).
Trees have fallen due to thunderstorms in Jayanagar, and about two weeks ago in Kengeri. The company plans to resolve this recurring issue by shifting power lines underground, but this process is due to take a few years, which means this problem has no immediate solution.
In spite of the measures taken by the authorities, the ill-preparedness is apparent and likely to be felt by the 10 million residents. “We will be underprepared for the rains, and consequently we should focus on resilience, [or] as in disaster recovery when the floods hit us", Ravichandar says.