Water water everywhere and we must stop to think
Floods have begun to afflict a widening expanse of India with rising intensity and frequency. Urban infrastructure is under severe pressure and it’s unclear if we are prepared for worse
We all know about Noah and his ark, most vividly thanks to film director Darren Aronofsky and movie star Russell Crowe, but almost all ancient civilizations across the globe have a ‘great flood’ myth with common elements, starting with the world’s oldest story, Gilgamesh, from Mesopotamia. In Indian myths too, Manu built a boat to store all kinds of grain (some versions also include all animal species) and was pulled to safety by Matsya (a Vishnu incarnation) when floods destroyed the world. This monsoon, the flooded streets of several major cities in India reminded us of these tales. Such was the extent of urban inundation. Rainy-season flooding has been routine in Mumbai for decades, but Chennai has also begun to host recurring floods. This year, 11 September saw Delhi’s international airport waterlogged after its heaviest rainfall in 46 years, barely three weeks after a similar episode. Kolkata logged a 13-year peak in precipitation, with canals for roads and even areas that had always stayed relatively dry getting soaked. Bengaluru reported arterial roads and junctions flooded on 25 July. The floods in Hyderabad after a torrential downpour on 2 September had a lethal quality: gushing waters swept away vehicles and hand-carts. Several other state capitals have been submerged in recent years, Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram, Patna, Bhopal and Ahmedabad among them.