Can Hyderabad’s Flooding Problem Be Really Solved?

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A Person Looks at Rice Bags Damaged Due to Rain.

Many believe Hyderabad’s storm water drains, built nearly a century ago, have ceased to be sufficient. Some believe the existing storm water drains can solve more than 70 per cent of the city’s flooding problems, if they were adequately maintained

Syed Khaled Shahbaaz | Clarion India

HYDERABAD — Fear gripped Hyderabad once again on October 18 as the sky turned gloomy, and clouds burst mercilessly in many areas. The water continued to gush through the Musi river causing more damage and killing more than a hundred cattle.

Days after a travel website listed Hyderabad as the best place to live in India, flash floods and deluge washed off the honourable mention as if it were just a painting of water colours. The city’s metropolitan ideal has been Singapore for the state’s ruling party TRS, but, ironically, it matches the perils of floods and heavy rains experienced by Singapore in the terminal months of the year.

Hyderabad was built over 429 years ago, and received its first drainage system in the time of seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan. Much has traversed since then. The lakes, guntas and nalas that were built for water flow are now inhabited by both the impoverished and the opulent alike.

Garbage Bags in Nalas

Many believe Hyderabad’s storm water drains, built nearly a century ago, have ceased to be sufficient. Some believe the existing storm water drains can solve more than 70 per cent of the city’s flooding problems, if they were adequately maintained.

According to Syed Aneesuddin, who served as a Principal Traffic Engineer for Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA), the inundation problem in Hyderabad is a “clear case of negligence. This is the insensitivity of the state government and the municipal administration in fixing a recurring problem that is costing people their lives and life savings”.

Syed Aneesuddin

He says, “the issue of Nadeem Colony or other areas at least in Toli Chowki is not new. The authorities could have used crores of rupees of taxes paid by local residents over the years to build discharge channels for flood waters there. The problem would’ve been solved but for the inaction of bureaucracy, administration and negligent politicians.”

Drawing a comparison to disciplinary action in such a situation within the United States or Saudi Arabia, he says “such negligence could cost officials their jobs, not to mention capital punishment in the case of the latter”.

In some cases, municipal contractors dump large garbage bags in open nalas, which pile up and obstruct water flow. During a deluge, the problem worsens.

The poor have no place to go but dwell on plots of land like these, plots that once used to be kuntas or pathways to nalas. If the government granted land for rehabilitation of these impoverished people, our trust will build and give them homes, said Aneesuddin who heads the Sahayata Trust in India.

Syed Basharat Ali

On Monday afternoon, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi appreciated the TRS government for handing out ex-gratia cheques to the affected families within hours of the tragedy. The Telangana Chief Minister announced Rs 1 lakh rupees for those whose houses were heavily damaged and Rs 50,000 for those whose houses suffered partial damage.

The Directorate of Enforcement, Vigilance and Disaster Management and the Police tri-commissionerates at Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Cyberabad warned the denizens of hazards of moderate to heavy rains, automobile companies notified customers of safety measures during rain, charitable organisations continued their Good Samaritan act even as several people went missing.

Syed Basharat Ali, who has been the consulting engineer for Ramoji Film City, and overlooked the Design and Consulting for National Games Village among many renowned projects in Hyderabad, said that Hyderabad’s storm water drains were designed to last for a particular period known as return period, at a time when heavy rainfall was expected once in a century or half.

“The average rainfall used to be 45 to 50 millimetres an hour. The pattern has changed in recent times and the city’s rainfall measured at more than 75 to 100mm an hour this October. Such sporadic increase can be attributed to climate change, and can only be met if existing storm water drains are clear of silt and obstruction, and encroachment on pathways leading to water bodies is controlled,” he explained.

Speed Boats from Andhra Pradesh brought into Hyderabad

In 2017, the Chief Minister’s son Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, popularly known as KTR, had rued the recommendations of the Kirloskar Committee to widen drains in the city as impractical  for a “concrete jungle”. The state at that time would have paid a total of Rs 12000 crore to clear the land. Over time, land rates have increased, and so have the population and the underlying complications.

“The more the government delays the recommendations of the Kirloskar Committee, the more cost it will incur, said Basharat while adding that the people should also be cautious while purchasing property in such perilous places.

Whether the government will take the October flash floods as a catalyst for implementing the Kirloskar committee recommendations or find an alternative solution, only time will tell. Until then, one is left to wonder if Hyderabad will be prepared to control damage due to flash floods with better urban planning and modern flood control mechanisms or will the perils of October 2020 floods be forgotten just like the 2006 deluge?

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Syed Khaled Shahbaaz is a Hyderabad-based journalist. He may be reached at [email protected]

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