Bengaluru is considered a smart city. But the recent flood has raised the question if it is truly a smart city or not.
In the wake of the recent flooding in Bengaluru, this question becomes relevant. With accelerated urbanization and the use of technology to make the lives of citizens better, such calamities make not just the city miserable to live in but also negate all efforts of technology to make lives better. Water is one of the most valuable if used diligently as well as dangerous when not planned judiciously.
In 2000, I was with the President of the American Planning Association, and he had come to India on my request to be able to speak to the heads of state governments on urban planning with a particular focus on the use of water, traffic management and future planning of urban conglomerates.
The smart cities project was not underway then. But the states showed a lackadaisical attitude in planning as if this was last their priority. He had mentioned through satellite imagery why flooding would happen in Bangalore, Mumbai and Gurgaon, citing scientific reasons. But the advice fell on deaf ears. And now we see this.
Let’s look at the reasons first for flooding in Bengaluru:
The land mafia has played havoc with the city with illegal construction and usurping water bodies illegally. Around two centuries ago, in a much smaller Bangalore (740 sq km), there were q452 water bodies with a storage capacity of 35TMC, which was the best resource for optimizing rainwater harvesting, thereby reducing the risk of flooding. As of today, we have 193 lakes, many blocked due to solid waste, encroachments and silt.
Bangalore was known for its interconnected lake systems and valleys protecting the banks of these lakes, forming a protected pathway for the flow of water. The connectivity of lakes allowed balancing the water load in the city. Even the drainage system was interconnected, and these connections now seem disrupted due to the construction of roads and infrastructure.
Over concretization of drains creates a permanent drainage system but prevents percolation of water into the ground, which leads to flooding. Urban management is fragmented, so integrated management deals with the water systems, lakes and their pollution, desilting of lakes and drains before monsoons, a sewage disposal system and its treatment, solid waste dumping, declogging of drains, development of gardens and their maintenance and more planned infrastructure and road development have to be done together in tandem.
Gardens are vanishing in the Garden City, flood plans need to be redrawn with Maximum Flood Levels (MFL) based on current rains and water levels and some scientific forecasting. An alert system when the drains are flowing to 3/4th capacity to warn the civic bodies is one of the technologies adopted worldwide by smart cities.
Flood plain zoning laws need to be enacted – these measures tell what developments are allowed in flood-prone zones to reduce flood impacts. Only three states and one Union territory have enacted this law: Manipur, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and J&K, while the laggard states stand the risk of frequent flooding if this is not a part of their planning.
Also Read: Humanistic smart cities of future India
(Jawahar Surisetti is a Smart City consultant and renowned Psychologist. He is also an educationist, TED Speaker, advisor to Government, start-up mentor, and a bestselling author.)
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