Rotting furniture, sewage-flooded homes: How rain has spelled doom for Bengaluru's Koramangala

From overflowing garbage to bad roads to traffic, Koramangala is symptomatic of all of Bengaluru's illnesses.
Rotting furniture, sewage-flooded homes: How rain has spelled doom for Bengaluru's Koramangala
Rotting furniture, sewage-flooded homes: How rain has spelled doom for Bengaluru's Koramangala

Koramangala, an upscale neighbourhood in Bengaluru, is known for its posh houses, shopping spots, restaurants and watering holes. But now, stagnating water on the streets, lumps of wet trash and potholes mark its landscape every few feet. These say a telling story about how this year’s monsoon has brought one of the most well to do neighbourhoods of Bengaluru to its knees.

August 15, 2017 induces a strange dread in the residents of Koramangala 4th block in Bengaluru. Water levels rose dangerously not just outside, but inside their homes. It wasn’t just their belongings they lost to irreparable damage, but their peace of mind as well.

Trash litters the streets every few feet

Manju and her husband have been living here for seven years now. Both of them are in their late 60s. They cannot recall a monsoon which has been so unforgiving.

From outside, their home looks like any other. A car and a scooter are parked at the entrance. The balcony on the first floor has a few pots, and a cane swing hangs from the ceiling. 

The picture from the inside, however, is poles apart. 

A home wrecked

A sense of decay lingers in the air as you enter the ground floor of the house. The living room is quite bare. The rotting sofa is the first to catch your eye. The signs of the once magnificent teak wood are replaced with mold and a permanently damp smell. There’s also a damaged TV, and two plastic chairs -perhaps the only surface there on which one can sit. 

A week ago, a heavy bout of rain left their lower floor submerged, destroying everything in its path.

"Starting mid-August, we have water inside our house every time it rains. It has rained heavily nearly nine to ten times since then and each time there is three to four feet of water inside. And this water is not just rain but also has sewage from the nearby drain," an exasperated Manju says. 

It takes them about nearly nine hours each time to physically scoop out water from the house. 

Manju and her husband now live on the first floor with their son and daughter-in-law in a bedroom which is also a makeshift kitchen.

"All our furniture is gone. We don't even have any place to sit. We can't sit on the floor because the electrical sockets are gone. All we can do now is use plastic chairs," she says. 

Damp and molding bedspread where Manju and her husband used to sleep earlier

The ground floor kitchen in Manju's house

The sight could disgust some, but the family has long resigned themselves to the situation. 

"We stand in knee-deep water and know that there is human faeces floating around. It doesn't affect us anymore," Vinod, Manju's son, says as a matter-of-factly. 

When asked why they had not thrown the drenched furniture, they said that the BBMP had told they would come for an inspection and compensate for their loss. 

"We are senior citizens. How many times can we climb up and down the stairs? For how long do we have to go through this?" Manju asks as her voice trembles. 

An unrepaired drain, and littered streets

A walk down one of the streets in the residential areas is telling of how easy it is for the area to get inundated. The road is still wet from the previous drizzle, two nights ago. The potholes hole holds stagnated water with mosquitoes buzzing around them.

According to Vinod, and many other residents, a wall which separated the open drain from the main road and residential areas got broken during one of the downpours a few days ago. The government authorities have not yet repaired it, which means that every time it rains, the water that enters the residents’ homes is not merely rainy and muddy, but also stinks of sewage.

The wall separating the drain from the road remains broken

A few feet away from Manju’s house lives Usha Prasad. Her one-storey house has suffered a similar fate, not helped by the fact that a construction site next to her house is filled with muddy water which flows into the ground floor of her house whenever it rains.

A resident of the lane for two decades now, Usha angrily remarks, “The corporation people come here in the morning and clean the roads. But that's all they do. Our houses are still getting flooded and the BBMP is not taking any action to tackle the real problem.” 

Usha Prasad

Usha has decided not to clean the ground floor until monsoon is over

"It has been raining continually since August. The main issue here is that we stay behind the 80 feet road. Once the rains starts, water from the overflowing drain in that area starts to flood our roads," she says. 

Just like in Manju's case, Usha too has moved to the first floor with her family. "We moved as much as we could to the first floor," Usha, who pegs their material damages to over Rs 2 lakh, says. 

Usha feels that the only way to solve the problem is for the BBMP to act on the root of the problem, which is to ensure that water from the drain does not reach their lane. 

Desperate measures

Sattvik is in his late 20s and has been living in Koramangala 4th block for 17 years.  

“This street has been experiencing flooding for the past decade,” he observes, “usually water doesn’t come inside because we have all raised platforms outside our houses and inside as well.” This year has been particularly bad however, with up to three-feet water on the street trapping them inside their own homes.

Indeed, almost every house in the lane constructed some kind of cement structure to prevent the water from entering their homes or water sumps.

Residents have built cement structures to prevent water from entering their homes

50-year-old Veena* for instance, has built a two feet cement wall in the parking space outside her home. There are stairs on either side of this wall. As we speak to her, a worker is attempting to drain rain water from which has entered the water sump of her home.

“I built the wall after August 15. Water came inside our house but thankfully it didn’t damage much. Now even with this wall, dirty water has gone into the sump. The wall protects the house, but our vehicles have to be kept outside and suffer damage,” she says.

The cement structure Veena had built after August

She adds that both Chandrappa, the corporator for the area and Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy had come to survey the area. They had both promised clean up and do repair work. “Nothing has happened. We’re lucky that we have a floor upstairs and can move there. But people who only have the ground floor here have lost everything,” Veena observes.

At the end of this lane, Manik mans at a bakery outlet. The shop consists of the fridge, a wash area with a sink and a display for the cupcakes. Next to his shop, a restaurant remains shut.

“Day before yesterday, the water entered their restaurant in the night. Their fridge and storage got damaged. That’s why they have been closed for the past two days,” Manik tells TNM.

Many times when Manik has come to work in the morning, the water collected on the street hasn’t cleared. So, he parks his bike elsewhere, wades in knee-deep water to get to the bakery. In the small sink, he washes up the best he can and sometimes, sits in damp clothes all day. “What else can we do?” he asks. 

*Name changed

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