One shower! and it's raining woes in Bengaluru

Bengaluru's annual battle with rain is here again and the BBMP seems as unprepared as always.

Bengaluru’s annual battle with rain is here again and the BBMP seems as unprepared as always as a mere 30.2 mm of rainfall left the city in a mess on Wednesday with trees uprooted and roads and homes flooded. Alarmingly, the so-called superior TenderSure roads too were waterlogged to the dismay of motorists and pedestrians, who had to wade through them.

It’s hard to forget the sight of two KSRTC buses submerged under rain water at Shivananda Circle last monsoon. But it hardly appears to have taught the BBMP anything as a downpour of just 30.2 mm Wednesday evening left the city once again with trees uprooted, flooded homes and roads and snapped power lines. As the BBMP has still not asphalted roads or fixed potholes, major Central Business District localities like Rajaram Mohan Roy Road, Cunningham Road, Palace Road, and Ballari Road turned into mini pools with knee-deep water that severely hampered traffic movement. And this even before the monsoon could set in properly.

Only last month newly-appointed commissioner, Manjunath Prasad, had announced he intended to make sure the city was monsoon-ready. But by all appearances the BBMP is still struggling to prepare for the rains. While it claims tenders to the tune of Rs 412 crore have been floated for road repair work in view of the monsoon, the truth is the agency was late in floating the tenders and works in several packages have not even started, going by official sources. Also, the absence of storm water seepage pits in crucial areas, including the CBD, led to water logging on roads, they reveal.

With no effort having been made so far to clear even minor drains filled with garbage and debris, the rain water continued to stagnate on the roads, leaving many Bengalureans reliving the hellish experience of the last monsoon that left many marooned for hours.

Despite the regular falling of trees in rain, the BBMP has still not pruned trees as a precautionary measure, especially in old areas like Gandhi Bazar, Jayanagar, Malleswaram, Shivajinagar, Shanthinagar, and Chamarajpet, say sources. Not surprisingly dozens of trees were uprooted in Wednesday’s rain.

The BBMP’s lack of readiness to tackle the monsoon is even more evident in the absence of ready-to-act emergency squads. Despite claiming to have round-the-clock squads, many gangmen who man them lack machinery to address a complaint when required. Most of the machinery is shared among different zones and not always available in the area necessary, reveal officers.

“Does the BBMP actually desilt drains before the monsoon or is it just a scam?” asks one fed up Bengalurean, R. Chidananda of Kasturinagar, adding, “Does the BBMP only want contractors to benefit from the desilting as the silt flows back into the drain soon enough requiring renewal of these contracts year after year.” He points out it is mere common sense to desilt drains at least 15 days before the onset of monsoon so they can carry away the rain water and prevent flooding on city roads. But clearly common sense doesn’t always prevail in the BBMP as Wednesday’s experience showed.

BBMP defends: Rs 32 crore works are underway
Despite the continuing rain havoc, BBMP officials claim it is doing its best to prepare for the monsoon. Its Chief Engineer, Storm Water Drain (SWD), Siddegowda says a detailed contingency plan has been drawn up and encroachments on drains are being demolished to prevent flooding in the city.

“We have identified 224 vulnerable points across the BBMP’s jurisdiction and of these 65 were tackled last year itself,” he claims. “Emergency work has been taken up at a cost of Rs 32.30 crore at 120 vulnerable points. SWDs will be desilted and remodelled. In some cases, diversion will be provided for storm water to run off smoothly,” says the officer, adding that work has already begun on this at 39 locations. To make sure silt removed from primary and major SWDs doesn't find its way back into them, it will be transported to quarries by the end of June, according to him. Tenders are being finalised for the job, he reveals.

Reeling off more information to show the BBMP’s monsoon preparedness, he says sand bags have been procured and Flood Relief Squads formed to help people in distress. “These squads have been formed at the sub-division level too and will have two reserve vehicles and 10 labourers available at all times during the monsoon,” he assures, adding that high capacity pumps have been bought to pump out water from low lying areas.

Also as many as 10 round- the -clock control rooms and 61 temporary control rooms have been set up to attend to emergencies especially in the low lying areas of all eight zones. Additionally, tree cutting squads armed with power saws, ropes and other gadgets will be available to clear uprooted trees.

Q&A with Mayor Manjunath Reddy

What precautions has the BBMP taken for the monsoons?
Desilting of drains has started in vulnerable points, one tractor and 10 gangmen have been assigned to every ward so that desilting of drains can be taken up as and when there is an emergency. A mass cleaning of drains will be held in all vulnerable points in each Assembly constituency every Saturday. This way 28 points will be cleaned every week. Also we have brought in more men and machinery to tackle emergencies.

The commissioner had promised to fix potholes before the monsoon. How far has this progressed?
We have set up zone- wise teams to deal with road-related complaints. However, there are some minor complaints and these too will be addressed shortly. We have floated tenders to take up road works and before the onset of monsoons, the roads will be repaired.

TenderSURE roads were supposed to be better than others, but still drains on these multi-million roads are clogged.
We have now realised TenderSURE roads need shoulder drains. It was in the absence of these drains that there were complaints of water logging on Wednesday night. To avert such incidents in future, officials have been told to make an extra grating to facilitate free flow of rain water. Also, I have instructed officials to make necessary changes in the plan of upcoming roads.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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