Home » Delhi: Rain catches city off guard again | Latest News Delhi

Delhi: Rain catches city off guard again | Latest News Delhi

Delhi: Rain catches city off guard again | Latest News Delhi

Delhi:

New Delhi Strong winds and rain caused large-scale traffic disruptions for office commuters across parts of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) on Monday, with waterlogging reported at several arterial points, and uprooted trees adding to the mayhem.

Waterlogging and heavy congestion was reported at key spots such as the IIT Delhi intersection, Pul Prahaladpur underpass Hauz Khas, Rao Tula Ram Road flyover near Vasant Vihar, Ashram Chowk, Najafgarh Road, Nangloi Road, and Bakkarwala intersection.

The thunderstorm that caused the chaos, while raising questions about the city’s monsoon preparedness, also served as a wake-up call for agencies — whether the Delhi government or the MCDs — about the need to not just expedite their desilting operations but also reimagine them completely.

Experts said that with weather patterns becoming increasingly erratic, and the possibility of a heavy rain day at any time of the year now a reality, the annual exercise of so-called pre-monsoon preparations should make way for year-long activity to spruce up the city’s drainage networks, public health-related drives, and emergency responses.

According to the ongoing desilting action plans of the agencies concerned, work to clear the drainage network is expected to be completed by June 15, 2022. The municipal corporations of Delhi (now unified under a single MCD) have claimed that they removed 66% of the targeted silt quantity, and that 60,000 metric tons of silt has been sent to landfills. The erstwhile South corporation used to oversee 275 major drains spread over 186km, North MCD 815 drains over 459km and East corporation 218 drains over 120km — all of which will now come under the unified corporation.

Officials from the Public Works Department (PWD), which comes under the Delhi government, said desilting work is currently at the 50% level in various zones, with a deadline of June 15. The Public Works Department (PWD) covers 2,064.08 km of storm run off system.

To be sure, Delhi has 11 different agencies overseeing 426.5km of natural drainage lines and 3,311.5km of engineered stormwater drains, and the multiplicity of agencies has often been blamed for the poor maintenance of the drainage network.

Delhi’s more than four decade-old drainage plan also needs to be urgently upgraded, for which several assurances have been made but little progress has been made on the ground.

A senior official from PWD said the process to hire a consultant for the implementation of a drainage master plan was initiated, but eligible takers were not found. The process is now being revised, the official said. In March, the Delhi government announced that it will appoint two consultants to prepare a blueprint for augmenting existing drainage systems and to monitor implementation of the new master plan.

“We had to cancel the first tender call due to technical reasons and the technical proposal of bidders in second attempt was not found to be adequate. To increases the number of participants in the process, we have recalled the tender process,” the official said, asking not to be named.

A second PWD official said that though the drainage master plan process may take a while, corrective steps on 13 critical waterlogging points in Delhi will be implemented before the onset of monsoon. “This includes the Pul Prahaladpur underpass, which frequently witnesses, water logging where underground tank with 600,000 litre capacity and new pump house are being set up,” the second official said.

Chandra Bhushan, a climate change expert and CEO at iForest, said extreme weather events are becoming more common over the last decade, with intense heat often giving way to intense rainfall.

“The first two months of the year saw extreme rainfall and the next two brought extreme heat. Therefore, such a strong spell was expected, and if that happens, the city’s infrastructure collapses, as Delhi’s existing drainage system is inadequate to handle even moderate spells of rainfall,” said Bhushan.

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He added that there is now a need to work on systemic and infrastructural changes, which will require focus throughout the year. “One cannot simply carry out desilting for a couple of months and expect results. The entire exercise is futile.”

In April, the special task force on combating mosquito-borne diseases also urged all drain-owning agencies to make desilting a year-long exercise instead of setting pre-monsoon targets.

A senior MCD official said that, under the current approach, deadlines of May 31 or June 30 are usually fixed for the completion of annual desilting targets. “This approach will not work with erratic rains. Waterlogging allows high mosquito breeding and increased vector density. These action plans needs to be modified to make it round the year exercise,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Rainfall data shows that extreme weather events and unexpected rainfall are on rise. This led to Delhi being waterlogged even during the winter month of January and February, with two instances in January this year (January 7 and 22) and one in February (February 8).

In January, Delhi recorded 88.2m of rainfall, making it the highest ever for January in the last 121 years, beating a 1989 record (79.7mm). The city witnessed seven western disturbances through February, not only keeping both the maximum and minimum temperature under checks, but bringing 29.7mm of rainfall in total, the highest for February since 2014.

The drainage system of Delhi can only cater to 50mm of rainfall in a day, and anything more than that overwhelms the system resulting in flooding of arterial roads and massive traffic jams. At least ninesuch heavy rainfall days with over 50mm rainfall were observed in 2021. Last year, Delhi recorded 1,512.4mm of rainfall till December 29, the second highest ever (behind 1,534.3mm in 1933).

Gufran Beig, founder project director at Safar, a body under the ministry of earth sciences, says intense rain spells are becoming more common in the non-monsoon months now, and Delhi is no exception. This is likely to put an additional burden on the existing infrastructure, therefore requiring better preparedness. “We need two things. One, an alert system for such extreme weather events and two, better inter-departmental coordination throughout the year in dealing with these events and preparing for them,” he said.

A senior municipal official said that the civic body is working on war footing to meet the target of cleaning all the drains under its jurisdiction before the onset of monsoon. “The corporation will complete desilting all the drains way before June 15 deadline. We have also requested PWD, DSIIDC and Irrigation and Flood Control Department of Delhi government to complete the cleaning of all the drains falling under their jurisdiction before monsoon rains which will minimise civic woes during the rains as the majority of drains in the city are interconnected.”

The Delhi government spokespersons did not comment on the matter.

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