Hyderabad is under floods, second time in just two months. The capital of one of the driest states of the country if facing what many other cities have been reeling for years, if not decades. This is not only an Indian phenomenon. Our policy makers sometimes take refuge to the global menace when confronted with questions about floods. Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi once famously said, “Even America faces flood”, when sought his comment on the perennial flash floods in Guwahati.

It’s a cliché that artificial floods in cities are mainly caused by filling up of lakes, swamps, ponds, marshy land and even grassland. Yet the policy makers find solutions in just making new drains, heightening roads, building guard walls and embankments. Most residents affected by flash floods tries the most obvious solution – earth filling in the campus. Some even go to the extent of filling up an entire ground floor. These are unavoidable measures as the damage was done decades ago. But what about preventing upcoming cities from such situation, and avoiding ‘concrete’ solutions? What about securing so-far-virgin areas where cities are coming up in future? Can’t we expect that much of vision from our lawmakers and policymakers.

Given the skyrocketing prices of land, it is foolish to expect landowners to have a future vision for the society and not sale land for building apartments and houses. Cities are expanding. New cities coming up. The government can intervene and buy such virgin land for making buffer zones when there will be a city in no time. These areas can have lakes, water sport facilities, and playing fields. There should also be regulations on the ratio of the area in a residential campus to be left without any concrete cover, so that some portion of rainwater goes down the earth. Most of the rainwater received in cities go down the concrete drains without touching the Mother Earth, before falling into the river. Even many of the streams and rivers in cities are now converted into concrete drains. It’s time to think wide and act bold to tackle the twin problems of floods and fast-slipping groundwater level.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 23, 2016)

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