Why are cities getting flooded?

Priyadarshini Karve: Environmental Science, Political Science, Economics, Unrestricted Urbanization, Concreting are the reasons; But we have to keep in mind the change that has taken place in the last 15 years, not just the rains, but the rains. During this monsoon, some parts of Maharashtra, big and small, were flooded. There was a lot of damage to private as well as public property. Or […]

Priyadarshini Karve: Environmental Science, Political Science, Economics, Justice
Unrestricted urbanization, concretization are the reasons; But we need to be aware of the changes that have taken place in the last 15 years, not just the rains, but also our homes, our surroundings.

During this monsoon, some parts of Maharashtra, big and small, were flooded and submerged. There was a lot of damage to private as well as public property. All of these incidents had one thing in common- unprecedented heavy rainfall in the catchment area in a very short time. This, of course, has to do with global climate change. Climate change and global warming are causing various disasters in India and around the world. India is undergoing rapid urbanization and the state of Maharashtra is at the forefront. The prosperity of the local cities is considered a symbol of the development of the area. Especially the affluent class in the city understands that their life is more happy, prosperous and safe because of the amenities in the city. But now cities are also on their knees in the face of climate change. Every year during the monsoon season, India’s financial capital and political capital also gets flooded. Such effects are increasing day by day in urban areas across the country.

Scientists were fascinated by global climate change in the 1970’s. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1987, while the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established in 1994. The IPCC is primarily a group of scientists that periodically disseminates predictive reports based on the latest science on climate change. The UNFCCC is a group of representatives of governments from around the world and is expected to make decisions on how to deal with the global warming crisis. Over the last two hundred years, the use of fossil fuels has increased the Earth’s average temperature by about one degree Celsius, and the effects are now being felt everywhere. Researchers are generally concerned about what will happen if temperatures continue to rise. Multidimensional research is also being done on the possible consequences in every part of the world. The changing cycle of monsoon rains is being studied in the Indian subcontinent. Although the average rainfall in India does not change much, the actual rainfall days are decreasing. Indian meteorologists and smokers have known for the last at least 15 years that when it rains, it will be very heavy and in two such cases of heavy rains there will be a long period of dry days. Today, when these predictions are coming true, it is misleading to call the occurrence of heavy rains unexpected.

Almost all cities have expanded on the basis of rivers. In the old parts of the city there were lakes, cisterns and wells created by living springs. Due to the construction of dams on the rivers, their visual flow was lost and water started flowing from the taps, which also depended on the flow of the rivers or the reservoirs in the area. The urgency to accommodate the growing influx of migrants gave the vacant lands a unique value. Wells have been dug, ponds have become extinct, lakes have shrunk, settlements have dried up, and the natural greenery of cities has disappeared. As cities grow, so does the need for housing, but also for shops, offices, roads, bridges, bus stops, various service establishments, and public spaces. As a result, it seems necessary to use the vacant lands. It is almost dry for eight months of the year. This means that when it rains for four months, there is no realization that the water should be allowed to flow. Of course, in the catchment area also, buildings, walls, flyover pillars, road dividers, etc. Obstacles were created. Citizens riding on the winds of urbanization did not like the soil in the premises of buildings. Concrete cladding became a symbol of cleanliness and modernity. As a result, the amount of rainwater that falls on the city to the groundwater flows is also reduced. In big cities, the tide of subways, buildings, underground, etc. burst. This also created obstacles in the way of ground water.

It is in principle possible to control the flow by using dams on rivers. But for this, it is necessary to know how the rainfall pattern will be in the catchment area of ​​the river during the four rainy months. Based on this, calculations can be made about how much water to be retained per month and how much, when and at what speed to release it. But climate change is changing the pattern of rainfall and this has led to limitations on flood control based on dams. Due to the heavy rains in the city itself, the water starts rushing towards the river basin which is the lowest part of the land. A spring that is buried under the concrete flows rapidly through the cracks. The river suddenly swells as the reservoirs of the dams have to be filled and water released. Cities are flooded for a variety of reasons. Since there is no space for water, of course, this water seeps into buildings and destroys them.

Many new constructions and development works have been done in all the cities in the last 10-15 years. When planning these constructions, no one took into account the effects of the changing morphology of rainfall when granting permits. It is wrong to blame climate change for the damage caused by floods after construction, ignoring the fact that has been known for fifteen years. Rising hurricanes other than floods, increasing thunderstorms during monsoons, landslides on hill slopes, heat waves and winds in summer, etc. The shadow of other crises has fallen on cities due to climate change, which is still ignored. Measures are now being announced to flood the river basin or divert its flow. It is more deadly than medicine. This will further increase the extent and destructive power of floods in cities. The only solution to this problem is to provide enough space for the natural flow of groundwater and surface water to flow freely, given the increasing amount of rainfall caused by climate change. For this, many settlements, buildings will have to be removed, road structures will have to be changed. Some projects will have to be canceled. Of course, for all this, there will be plenty of opportunities to draw construction contracts! So in principle there is no reason for local administrators to oppose it!

Against this backdrop, it is to be welcomed that an action plan is being prepared to make the city of Mumbai environment-friendly. However, the participation of citizens from all walks of life is essential. Mumbaikars need to be aware that no suicidal plans will be suggested in the name of river improvement in the name of remedies, and that some magical techniques will not be used to solve all the problems in a pinch. The ‘Climate Collective-Pune’ group, which met informally in Pune last year, came up with the idea of ​​a development plan with zero curb emissions in the Pune Metropolitan Authority area and the state government accepted it. But more needs to be done to protect Pune and its environs from the effects of climate change. Citizens, NGOs and administrators in all other cities and towns in the state should come together and work towards this.

The experience of waterlogged cities underscores how important it is for urban citizens to become environmentally literate themselves. If you are buying a new home, make sure its space is protected from the potential effects of climate change, and that the architecture and construction is environmentally-compatible. If there are any new public works taking place in your area, insist on checking their environmental safety. In the upcoming municipal or municipal council elections in your city, ask candidates questions about the city’s environmental challenges and vote for environmentally conscious candidates, leaving party loyalties aside.

The author works in the field of environmental technology and is the founder of ‘Proper Enviro-Tech’.

Email: pkarve @ samuchit.com


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