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Hyderabad flooding
Why does rainfall of even milder proportions for smaller durations bring the fifth largest city in India to a standstill?
PTI

Update: Heavy overnight rains wreaked havoc in parts of Hyderabad and its suburbs as water entered some residential areas and flooded roads, officials said. The rains from Tuesday evening to the early hours of Wednesday caused massive flooding in parts of western and northern parts of Greater Hyderabad.

The situation was grim in some areas of Kukatpally, Miyapur, Nizampet, Qutbullapur, Moosapet, Begumpet, Alwal and other major residential and commercial suburbs of the city.

With storm water drains overflowing, water entered residential colonies in Nizampet, Balanagar and Alwal. The parking lots in several commercial complexes had completely submerged while roads turned into rivers with three to four feet water. Read more: Heavy rains batter parts of Hyderabad, massive flooding in some areas

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At least 7 people were killed in separate incidents in Hyderabad after the roofs of two buildings collapsed following heavy rains in the city on August 31.

While the rain recorded in the city till 8 am was three to five cm, by noon it varied between 11.8 cm to 6.5 cm in different areas. 

In comparison, during the Chennai floods last year, the city had received an unprecedented 47.5 cm rainfall, with rainfall recorded at Tambaram being a staggering 50 cm. 

Apart from the loss of lives, the heavy downpour in Hyderabad also left several injured along with leaving parts of the city inundated, trees uprooted, vehicles submerged and people stranded. 

There were also numerous complaints of overflowing drains, waterlogging, fallen trees, and wall/building collapses. Large parts of the city were left without electricity and the waterlogging resulted in major traffic blocks. Police and GHMC officials advised people to stay home and not travel within the city until the rains subsided and water-logged areas were cleared.

Rains paralyzing the city is however not a new phenomenon. But why does rainfall of even milder proportions for smaller durations bring the fifth largest city in India to a standstill? 

In a report for FirstPost, GS Radhakrishna, writes that is Hyderabad's century-old drainage system that caused the flooding in city.

The city's drainage system was developed in the early 1930s after the disastrous Musi flood of 1908 which is said to have killed 15,000 people in Hyderabad and made an equal number homeless. Since then, while additions have been made to the drainage and sewage system by successive governments, there has been no revamp. 

The floodgates of Hussain Sagar Lake were opened after the rains on August 31.

A senior city Corporation engineer, quoted in the report, said that funds to the tune of Rs 1,240 crore are required for a complete overhaul of GHMC's drain and sewerage system which includes 1,500 km of drains and over 2 lakh manholes. 

According to a retired engineer with GHMC, "there is a need to extend the drain canals to 5,000 km from the present 1,500 km and put up nearly 4.2 lakh manholes from the present two lakh manholes." Hyderabad’s municipal area was 275 sq km in the 1990s. At present, after the inclusion of 12 municipalities and 300 villages, it is over 2,500 sq km.

However, GHMC blames the sorry state of the city's drainage and sewerage system on the previous administration which was "crippled by political interference during the last four years of Congress rule". "We are now striving to bring transparency and accountability by introducing several IT initiatives to cut red tape, speed up garbage clearance, drains and manhole repairs," Venkata Ramana, Chief Public Relations Officer, GHMC, told FirstPost.

Since Hyderabad lacks a storm-water drainage system, even mild showers can cause waterlogging and flooding in the city. 



Environmentalist Purushotham Reddy told The Times of India last year that since the water could not flow freely during the rains, the floods are caused. .  

"Many of the lakes that acted as water sinks have disappeared. Durgam Cheruvu has been reduced to a cesspool. The state government has failed miserably to come up with a master plan for this area. It should act now if it wants to at least minimize the impact of urban flooding in this area," he explained.

The lack of a functioning garbage disposal system also causes blockages in drains. And the public too is responsible for the menace.  

Blockages in sewer lines in the city are mainly caused by waste that is flushed down toilets or thrown in open drains and manholes. This includes everything from condoms to sanitary napkins, cigarette butts and kitchen waste. 70 percent of the blockages are due to dumping plastic, GHMC commissioner Dr B. Janardhan Reddy told Deccan Chronicle.

With agency inputs