Citizens of Pune are more than fed up with the incessant rain for the past five months and pray for the sun to return!
However, what happens when they come back next year?
The rain is really frustrating Puneites. Each time the weatherman announces the fresh date for the monsoon to retreat, a fresh cyclonic storm of depression forms in the Arabian sea that prolongs the retreat!
Hopefully, soon the departure of the monsoons will be a reality, with winter to set in, but the million dollar question is, what happens in the 2020 monsoons?
Will Puneites continue to suffer with loss of lives, limbs and property withcolossal damage as experienced this year? Will the civic body take any responsibility for ensuring lesser incidences of flash floods?
For, while nature may have played a nasty joke on us through torrential rains and cloud bursts, but much of the reason for flash floods that have killed over two dozen Puneites and damaged innumerable homes with slush and wreckage is due to the greed to earn more money in the name of development. And, the Municipal Corporation is certainly responsible for being unable to prevent such havoc.
Shrikant Gabale, an expert in Geographic Information Systems and the director of Unity Geospatial had explained with maps, in an interview with Down-to-Earth recently, after the Ambil Odha at Katraj had burst, that, `unauthorised and unplanned constructions, most of them near the stream; diversion of streams; deposition of construction debris in streams; No proper sewage system and waste being pumped into water bodies and; Increased runoff owing to cement and concrete roads’’ are the main reasons for flash floods.
The story further states that, `on comparing Survey of India maps, of the scale 1:25,000, with satellite images, he found that the built-up area had increased to 47 per cent in 2015 from 37 per cent in 1991. Streams existed till 1999, then they started disappearing. Water bodies reduced to 0.24 per cent in 2015 from 0.75 per cent in 1991.’’
Fortunately, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has an `Integrated Regional Disaster Management Plan’ laid out and by its own admission, is wary of several neighbourhoods in Pune that would continue to be victims of flash floods, as several norms are being flouted. The report states the following:
`Hazards – …flooding of Mula and Mutha happens only during heavy monsoons. PMC and irrigation Department have already marked the low flood line and high flood lines. Constructions are not allowed in flood zone by PMC. However there are old and unauthorized constructions and slums in flood zones. The highest risk of floods is of Khadakwasla Dam brust. The loss of life and property would be high.
So PMC, what is your action plan of removing unauthorized constructions and slums before the monsoon of 2020?
Vulnerability – The ward that are affected and threatened are Aundh (partial), Ghole Road, Warje, Dhole Patil Road, Sangamwadi, Kasba and Tilak Road. The wards which have low lying areas like Vittalwadi and Anandnagar of Tilak Road ward are more vulnerable as flood water enters buildings and parking areas. The slums of Sangamwadi have to be relocated every monsoons during floods. The slums and chawls of Mahrashinagar in Swargate ward are more vulnerable to flood water.
Flash floods occur during heavy rains – the main reasons being, choking of drains, construction in nallas especially in Bibvewadi ward, encroachments on natural waterways and nallas, debri dumping in nallas especially in Hadapasar ward. The occurrences of flash floods are evident in almost all the wards.
PMC, what is your action plan for de-choking of nullahs, debris dumping, encroachment on water bodies before the monsoon of 2020?
Landslide hazards: Pune has a saucer shape profile and is surrounded by hills. As the city is growing, the city limits are increasing putting stress on real estate. PMC is permitting the use of and foot hills slopes for construction activities. Roads are constructed cutting the hills, the remaining hill is prone to landslide and mudslide like the NH4 constructed cutting hills in Kothrud ward and Dhankawdi ward. Many unauthorised stone quarrying activities are going unchecked. This may result into stressing the hill slopes resulting in landslides.
Vulnerability – The workers class forms slums and has occupied steep slopes of hills of Parvati, Warje Malewadi ward, Dhankawdi ward. The non – engineered cutting of hills for roads has resulted in increasing the probability of landslides. Dhankawdi ward has high risk of such landslides and population of almost 7000 is at risk of landslides. The wards of Aundh, Kothrud,Ghole road, Warje Malewadi, Bibwewadi, Kondhwa, Wanowarie and Yerwada, Sangamwadi have threats of landslide from low to moderate scale. The Sahakarnagar, Tilak road, Dhankawdi have fairly high risk of landslide and high population is at risk. JantaVashat slum of Tilak road and partly of Sahakarnagar has 50000 vulnerable population. Yerawada Sangamwadi Ward has stone mining making the 2000 population of Laxminagar vulnerable.
Dear PMC, this is indeed a serious scenario. What is your action plan for brutally destroying the green cover in our hills and hill slopes in the name of development, before the monsoon of 2020?
That the capacity of the authorities to deal with these life-threatening situations is highly questionable and that’s the worry.
The Report states: `PMC has capacity in terms of tools and equipments in emergency scenario. The NDRF located in PCMC has all the required mechanism for response and recovery in case of emergencies. However there is no strategy implemented to prevent the disaster, by either relocating the populations, banning constructions and road construction or mining. There is no strategy to make people aware of the risk. The other capacities in terms of hospitals, temporary shelters etc are available. However the loss of life and property would be high in case of landslides.
As for flash floods, `PMC has the SOP ready for Floods and flash floods. There is the coordinated effort with PMC, Police and Fire Department for early warning system, relocating the populations in flood zone and low lying areas of slums. The temporary shelters are identified and food, water and sanitation facilities are provided by PMC and other NGO’s in the city.’’
That’s it from the PMC? Isn’t a cause of worry for us citizens who are helpless in front of avaricious vested interest playing with our lives?
Are we to continue sacrificing our safety and life for the sake of a corrupt, insensitive system? And for how long?
Time that the government machinery gets serious about the lives of citizens!
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,