The Urban agglomerate and its crumbling infrastructure

Bengaluru’s struggle to counter the heavier monsoon


Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

G Sai Prashanth

Bengalureans are witnessing heavy downpours and flooded roads during the rainy season. Given that May 2023 was Bengaluru's wettest May in recorded history, it's understandable that the severity of the pre-monsoon rains last month caught many people off guard. As Bengalureans prepare for the rainy season, the state capital of Karnataka struggles to develop any disaster management plans to counter the aftermath.

Bengaluru has been operating without an elected local body since September 10, 2020. The city has been governed by bureaucrats for almost three years, and the people's participation in this whole process is completely missing. The city operates under the assumption that "cities are engines of growth," but this paradigm has caused setbacks in both bottom-up planning and how the city operates.

The environmental fabric of the city

Stormwater drains are often viewed and managed from a traditional standpoint, considering them as purely hydrological or technological. This method of managing drains ignores how these drains have the power to alter or disturb communities, frequently leaving hydro-social scars in their wake. The city has had numerous flooding episodes where residents were confined to their homes for days. The real estate lobby's significant land use changes, lake encroachments, and the city’s poor urban planning are to blame for this. In addition, the drainage system requires a total overhaul. Older maps of the city will show that the stormwater drains are a crucial component of the city. “These drains have just recently received attention, mostly as feeders to the tanks”, says Amritha Ganapathy, an architect and urban designer. The stormwater drains and catchments have largely gone unnoticed in greater city planning throughout the recent decades of increased urbanisation, he added.

Need for organised management

The city's flooding has turned into a persistent issue. Bengaluru always comes to a complete standstill after heavy downpours; roads are inundated, and homes often flooded. Residents and activists alike lament the severe waterlogging problems brought on by inadequate design, infrastructure, and drainage systems. It is obvious that Bengaluru's stormwater drains are not built in accordance with national standards. Furthermore, the state currently lacks a stormwater management policy or a resource-based approach to stormwater management. There is no denying that, as a result of climatic changes, both the frequency and severity of natural disasters have considerably increased. In addition to the extensive damage, the continued floods have spawned an online public discourse in which "locals" are now blaming the increasing number of migrants for what is happening to the city.

To rescue Bengaluru from floods, the municipal administration and the state government ought to remove the encroachments on the city's remaining lakes. By building a carefully planned drainage system, the lakes can be connected. This will guarantee that the people of Bengaluru will not experience a flood-like situation during periods of severe rain. Every time we clean the drinages, we find at least half a tractor load of trash in them, said Basavaraj Kabade, head engineer of the BBMP, in a statement to Times of India (TOI). In addition to that, he also added that "The public is throwing plastic waste into the stormwater drains”. Making strategies and moving quickly towards them might still give us a chance to save Bengaluru.

The Prevention

According to a report by the IISC, Bengaluru's vegetation cover has depleted from 68% in 1973 to 3% in 2022. It is easy to see how this has harmed the city's ecosystem. Nowadays, drains also double up as waste dump yards, and the rainwater has nowhere to go because of the encroachments on the banks of storm-water drains. To prevent flooding, we must undo the years of dumping waste that has constricted the city's drains. The first thing we must do is immediately conduct a road audit for drainage. The authorities must check to see if there are stormwater drains on either side of every road and whether they are connected. Today, most of the drains just stop at a dead end without being linked. These drains ought to exit into a large water body. Authorities must make sure that stormwater channels are protected against encroachment and becoming a waste dump, and every drain should be lined with concrete to mark its boundaries.

The current government should invest in sewerage networks immediately with adequate sewage treatment plants (STPs). People living in the city should also contribute by investing in suitable rainwater harvesting systems. The Bengaluru building code already mandates that 60 litres of rainwater storage be provided for each square metre of roof area. Residents could easily conserve enormous volumes of water that can be used for cleaning, watering, and other purposes by adhering to these regulations. After all, we can't all switch to boats from cars right now, can we?

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