World-class city? Rains expose the reality
Another year, another monsoon and more stories of chaos on our city roads. That’s how the rain-soaked twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad can be described. Woes of people, particularly in low-lying areas, are endless in the prolonged wet spell.
No doubt, the Telangana government, the official machinery of all relevant departments in the civic body have been doing whatever they could to address the problems caused by rain havoc. But the question that needs to be answered and beckons soul-searching among official circles is whether the monsoon-triggered urban crisis could have been minimized, if not avoided.
Hyderabad is not alone in facing monsoon crisis: water-logged or washed out roads, overflowing sewerage lines, traffic snarls, inundations, etc. Every metropolitan city from Mumbai to Delhi and Chennai to Kolkata goes through the monsoon motions year after year. Still, what’s amazing is, little remedial action is being taken to improve road conditions, storm water drainage, etc. In other words, the rainy season comes and goes without seeing any major change in urban infra.
Hyderabadis are now quite familiar with the features that mark annual monsoons. They are also equally familiar with yearly promises made by the government and assurance given by civic officials just before rains hit the city that all measures had been taken to prevent recurrence of previous years’ messy situations. But, sadly, all the assurances get washed away in the very first spell of heavy monsoon showers.
Why are our lives thrown out of gear once heavy rains lash the city? In fact, excess rainfall had been predicted for this season and the forecast was wholeheartedly welcomed by the water-starved capital of the new state. But when the skies opened, a bit belatedly, of course, we were at a loss to manage the most precious natural resource falling down copiously.
Authorities can’t say that heavy bouts of rain are unexpected or they have been caught unawares. Since April, the Met department had been issuing periodical warnings and forecasts about the south-west monsoon movements. Still, the authorities remained unprepared. This is clearly apathy and unaccountability with a touch of taken-for-granted attitude. These are compounded by other factors such as poor or no maintenance of storm water drainage systems; systematic and illegal encroachments of lakes and their beds; mindless granting of building permits; bad city planning; digging of roads just before the rainy season, ostensibly for repairs.
Old timers recall that at one time Hyderabad was one of the best cities in India with paved roads and drainage systems. Even during the heavy monsoon, residents of that time remember, rarely could they find water on the road after rain. But at that time the city was small and manageable. But now, it has grown –and is expanding – beyond anybody’s imagination without corresponding increase in basic infra. In other words, Hyderabad’s urban development is as skewed as any other fast growing city in the country, say Bangalore.
The state government has grandiose plans for the capital, one of them being to turn it into a world-class city. Unless the basic problems are addressed, it remains a pipedream. Skywalks, rapid transport systems or skyscrapers don’t make cities world-class. Many metropolises were built to weather adverse seasonal changes. The city has to earn the world-class city tag by working towards all-round improvement, not by billing itself. Successful tackling of rainy woes of Hyderabadis is the first step of the civic body and the government to reaching that goal.