Hyderabad authorities say they are prepared for monsoons, experts aren't convinced

GHMC has stated that it has deployed teams to tackle waterlogging, inundation and other problems that low-lying areas could face this monsoon.
Hyderabad authorities say they are prepared for monsoons, experts aren't convinced
Hyderabad authorities say they are prepared for monsoons, experts aren't convinced
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The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is taking no chances this year, having fully equipped itself ahead of the monsoon to tackle any flooding in the city.

“The GHMC has taken up a survey to identify dilapidated structures in all circles. The structures which were already demolished and repaired were removed from the list and new structures were identified. Accordingly, the total number of dilapidated building were about 996, out of which 667 structures were demolished in the last 3 years,” the municipal body said in a press release.

“The desiltation of all open nalas, covered drains and small drains was taken up on an annual basis throughout the year and Rs 2,662.10 lakh was sanctioned. So far 2.4 lakh cubic meters of silt has been removed from the drains, which is 0.1 cubic meter more than the desilting last year,” it added.

Stating that it has deployed teams ready to tackle waterlogging, inundation and other problems that low lying areas could face this monsoon, the GHMC also said that several enforcement drives were conducted to remove encroachments on drains.

1,252 properties were identified encroaching around 83 nalas, out of which 372 properties were removed, the GHMC said.

The GHMC has also deployed teams with all necessary equipment for road repairs and for dewatering low lying areas with pump sets if there is waterlogging.

A larger issue

However, even as one bout of rain hit the city last week, Shirdi Nagar, a low-lying colony in East Anandbagh, was inundated with overflowing sewage water, which entered houses and affected the daily life of the residents.

Waterlogging was also reported in a few other areas of the city, which begs the question – is the monsoon preparedness by the GHMC enough or do municipal authorities also have to look at the root cause in tackling these issues? 

Speaking to TNM, Dr Anant Maringanti, the Executive Director of the Hyderabad Urban Lab, argues that there are several issues as the city has expanded over the last 40 years incrementally, without much regard to the principles of hydrology.

“Not only has the population increased, the built environment has disregarded the terrain. On one hand, there are all these ambitious ideas, but on the other hand, we are barely coping. It is not about the intention but about an urban condition that we are not able to escape,” Dr Anant says.

As far as encroachments are concerned, he points out that the poor and the rich are involved in this, but it is the latter which have the power and resources to alter the terrain.

“What has happened now is that we are trying to fix a plane while it is in mid-flight. It is qualitatively a different kind of challenge,” Dr Anant quips.

“The dimensions of risk today compared to the Musi flood of 1908 are far more complex, which is why it requires a different kind of attitude. That sensibility can only come from an awareness of the risks that are a result of climate change,” he adds, citing the recent dust storms in Delhi.

As it stands today, the GHMC is only capable of diverting water from one area to another in cases of inundation.

“We must recognise that these are not disasters that we have known in the past. They may look the same in terms of physical appearance, but they are very different in terms of actual content. Despite this, we are continuing to build the same way, which is not helping,” he says.

“The present GHMC under Telangana Municipal Minister KT Rama Rao has built a capability to respond quickly in terms of emergencies, but it does not solve the underlying problem,” Dr Anant adds.

‘Desilting drains a must’

“We don’t have a proper system or infrastructure in place, as our storm water drains are either not well connected or are clogged with garbage,” says Dr LH Rao, a civil engineer.

Every year, before the monsoon, the GHMC deploys contractors to ensure that silt is removed from the drains, so that there is free flow of rainwater during the monsoon.

“Storm water drains in Hyderabad are often clogged with garbage and construction waste, as a result of which water is barely able to pass through. With no other place to go, the water starts flowing on the roads. This in turn leads to other problems, as workers often open manholes for mitigation, which only results in more debris flowing into the drain,” Rao says.

“Despite the GHMC sanctioning a budget, the amount of desilting done is grossly inadequate as there is no proper system to monitor the work done. This system should be strengthened,” he adds. 

In May last year, 13 Assistant Engineers of the GHMC’s Central zone were arrested after it came to light that they were working hand-in-glove with contractors who presented fake bills in ‘nala’ (canal) desilting works.

The Central Crime Station (CCS) which is investigating the scam, said that the contractors had tried to pocket more than Rs 1 crore, without actually desilting nalas on the ground.

This year too, according to reports, the GHMC has only managed to desilt 40% of nalas.

What can be done?

“With a lot of road widening and construction projects taking place, the job of building the nala is given to contractors who could potentially hire unskilled workers. The lack of a proper gradient is another reason why the water flows slowly and solid materials get deposited,” Rao says.

He also demands a better monitoring system in place to ensure higher quality of construction.

“There has to be some institutional setup that is going to take urban risk and vulnerability much more seriously, and this responsibility can either lie with the municipal corporation or the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), which must be strengthened and given more power and authority,” says Dr Anant. 

“What we need is educational work and research along with investment to study these issues of urban risk. As the problem affects everyone, all departments must have a multi-dimensional understanding of the issue,” he adds.

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