Floods in seashore cities like Mumbai and Chennai is a big irony. There is a vast sea just nearby, yet there are scarce means to channelise the floodwaters. Had it been the flood of sea happened during the tsunami, humans have little to do. But the fact being that sea water level is still lower than the floodwaters just a few kilometers away, the entire catastrophe is largely manmade and preventable. It is an eye opener for all the major cities that have been rampantly concretised too meet the ‘development’ target.

From Mohenjodaro to Mumbai, all major cities of the world have been built near large water bodies, river or sea or lake. The location had double advantage. First, served as the much-needed source of water and also means of storm water drainage. While cities continue to depend on river and sea as source of potable water, population burst and unplanned growth in many of them have made them unable to properly use the water bodies to drain out the access water. Massive concretization in cities has led to very less exposure of the raw soil to rainwater. The rainwater drops on the roof, flows down the concrete drain, falls into a bigger concrete drain all the way to the river or the sea. Large amount of the same water used to get soaked in people’s premises itself. If not so, the earth drains would soak the rest.

It would be very radical to suggest restricting construction of concrete drains, but what this world really needs is some radical measures. Construction of skyscrapers defying all odds is not radical, a proposition to construct of earth drains should not be rejected outright. This besides protection of wastelands and water bodies and keeping them free from encroachment. Townships are built on swamps everywhere. The primary reason for this phenomenon has been the cheap rate of land in those areas which need a lot of earthfilling to build houses. Governments so far have either failed or did not realized the urgent need to stop this devastating trend. The damage is already done in the existing cities where a Chennai-like rainfall would bring the same fate, if not more damaging. A radical approach needed even if someone tells the pioneer – are you mad?

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 5, 2015)

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