Learning lessons from Kerala floods
Learning lessons from Kerala floods

It is a paradox that water is not only life but is also death. There is no guarantee that, floods that ravaged Kerala reminding one of the Great Deluge of Noah's time, might not recur. The very thought of what would happen even if one-tenth of rain that had descended on God’s own country from the skies lashes Hyderabad, would paralyse one with fear.

The fear is not unfounded. Hyderabad has a history of cloudbursts, scaring the daylights out of the residents. They went through one such living nightmare in August in 2000 when the skies opened up sending down sheets of rain on the historic city.

The rainfall was 24 cm in just a matter of one day.  For the first time, the residents came to know how terrifying water could be. Compounded by rumours of breaches to the Hussain Sagar lake, the denizens had a hell of a time. Not very long ago, in August 2016, to be specific, there were two instances of cloudbursts. One had sent down 9.5 cm of rain and the second 16.4 cm., inundating Hyderabad and its surroundings.

No one would dispute the fact that Hyderabad would not be able to face a tragedy even if it is equal to a milder form of what Kerala is going through now. There are no ways for the water to move out of Hyderabad as all nalas have been encroached and several lakes have disappeared.

Even when there is a sharp shower, the fragile storm water drainage system goes on the blink when it is supposed to work and the roads disappear under sheets of water, resulting in traffic nightmares and power supply disruptions.

As of now, Hyderabad has only 1221 km of stormwater drainage network which is woefully inadequate even to take the burden of a small shower, forget about the tragedy of the size of the one that visited the God’s own country.

As water keeps overflowing, the residents have a tendency to remove the caps of manholes, which became death traps for others. The authorities later had cemented the caps of the manholes making their removal difficult, which is nothing but a band-aid treatment as the disease lay somewhere else.  

After the August 2000 tragedy when people had to wait on top of their buildings for hours for food to arrive by helicopters, the then government commissioned a study by Kirloskar Committee which went into what was leading to stagnation of water in the city.

It has concluded that unless as many as 28,800 properties are pulled down by paying a compensation of about Rs.12,000 crore to their owners, there is no insulation to Hyderabad against floods. But there was no follow up action on it.

Kerala floods are a wake up call. The government should realise this and insure Hyderabad which it wants to develop into a world-class city against floods. This requires no doubt political will but it is what is needed now. If the people are safe today, it is not because of the efficiency of the government, but because of the grace of God.

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