Sunday, November 29, 2015

Water World!

“I love the sounds and the power of pounding water, whether it is the waves or a waterfall”…Mike May

Michael G. "Mike" May is an American business executive, skier and enthusiast of other sports who was blinded by a chemical explosion at the age of three, but regained partial vision in 2000, at the age of 46, & that’s why he relay on hearing more than seeing something, even water! It’s said that when you lose ability of any of your senses then your other senses gets sharper, like hearing in case of those whose ability to see gets weak! Sure had Mike been here in Pune during last few days he would have heard water all along the roads of the city & would have thought he is amidst some flooding river or lake gone flooded, such was the situation all around. This city always amazes me as barely fifteen days back I was writing on water scarcity & how we should save every drop of water & just a day’s rains & now I am writing about havoc the rain water caused in the city & reasons of same!

This was the driest of the years in terms of rain fall & I am not giving any statistics for my statement but my own exposure with the city for last nearly thirty years! Each time when any of the month goes without rains, shouts of save water save Pune starts all around & then the rain god smiles & everything comes back to normal! This game we are playing since long but this year, there were different plans in the mind of rain god. It didn’t smile at all along the monsoon & we are facing one of the darkest water crises, though I wonder whether most of us have realized it even now! But suddenly when we are expecting winters sky got clouded & it rained in end of November like its monsoon time & the outcome was as expected  i.e. every civic front got caught unaware & unprepared to face the rains! There was water flowing in every possible direction & along every possible way it got & where it wasn’t flowing there it formed ponds initially which took the shape of lake soon. Many buildings in low laying areas were victims with water level rising to even plinth of ground floors & shops, cars in the parking got submerged. At many places the water got in electric meter boards causing short circuits & resulting failure of power supply for hours. The drainage chambers got flooded too which wasn’t supposed to be & the drainage water was flowing on road causing unhygienic situation all around. The roads become best path for water & took the form of streams or nallahs even like river at some places. Compound walls collapsed at many places causing damage of vehicle, thankfully no causality was there & then as usual trees fail down causing more traffic jams in addition to the road blocks due to water logging! Traffic signals got off due to short circuit (that’s what traffic dept claimed) & entire traffic came to stand still. Its scene like some Hollywood movie like Water World, with water every where!

Well well, someone will think all above must have  caused due to exceptional rain fall like Chennai got hit last week, but no, it’s just one & half inch rain fall that too all over the day which has caused this scene! On one side every single person, dept, elected member, rulers of the city are involved in making or in race of Smart City, on this back ground one small burst of rains exposed our futileness of becoming smart, surely it’s a warning call is what I feel! As here we are making our citizen aware about saving every single drop of water & the same water is not just being wasted but becoming destructive for the citizens only!

As usual there is post ho hallah by all parties giving blames to administration & then administrations top bosses visiting the most damaged parts of the city due to water clogging & issued notices to concerned officer as well warnings of improving their work given & again the natural course of time dried the water along with action plans! The civic chief big heartedly accepted that its due to concreting of the roads, water absorbing capacity of the soil has been reduced causing more rain water getting accumulated as runoff! Very well but this a ten year old kid could have told so is it needed flooding to stop rampant concreting going all around the city roads? There is an advertise of some window covers where a lady is shown changing here homes window cover with a tag line “sare ghar ke badal dalungi” means she will change all window covers of her home window in to a particular brands covers. Here our city rulers seems to have decided to follow the tag line, “sare shaharke badal dalenge” i.e. concretize every possible open space which is there in the name of roads, lanes, street whatever it may be! Even the earth patches along the roads known as cambers that also has been hard paved. The same PMC urges the developers for obtaining rain water harvesting NOC in the complex for completion certificate by virtue of which there has to be earth cover within the complex up to a certain percentage to allow the rain water percolate in the ground. But as usual laws are for public & not for law makers & rain water harvesting isn’t also an exception! This has another dimension i.e. this will lower the already decreased ground water table in the city further deeper as if we don’t allow any water to percolate how the charging of ground water will happen? But save water is only for narebaji is the fact for our rulers as no elected members urges to stop the concreting of roads or paving of entire city, reasons known to all! One more thing the concretization chokes the steam of all the trees along the road, leaving no space for them to grow as well as water percolation is zero the tree has to struggle for getting water & eventually becomes week. This caused increased incidences of tree failing around the city adding to more damage to property & life! Though I am no botanist yet this can be a logical reason so shared!

The rain water carrying drains is an engineering joke as every season same thing happens that water flows from everywhere except from the rain water lines! It’s high time to study the entire system of rain water drains & redo the same as how many floods we want to prove whatever we have done on the name of rain water carrying lines is not working at all. The chambers are at wrong places & not in level with the surfaces. At many places rain water lines slopes is wrong, making it cause of water logging itself than draining it away. The drainage line chambers are at lower level than rain water chamber covers making rain water flow in drainage line causing them burst open & all drainage flowing on road in heavy rain time. First of all get a contour survey done of entire city roads & nallahs so we will know which area rain water to be collected where & where to let it drain. In a city which is targeting itself as becoming top smart city of country, data plays very important role & we are too poor at it. Once we get all the levels then we can think of where to use rain water drains & where use surface draining. Make ward wise maps & make a master plan for entire city & then start executing the same with a designated target.

Another important aspect is quality of rain water drains & chambers; here we can form a team of supervisor & two masons at each ward & their job will be only to check levels of rain water collector chambers as well to check up condition of rain water carrying lines & repair it if found any problem. As its probably easiest task  to check up the levels of rain water chambers, by naked eyes also a trained engineer can do it yet like we check up in our toilets floor slopes, all one has to do is pour some water around the chamber & check whether the water flows towards the chamber or in any other direction! And this job should not be done just before monsoon for the sake of show that checking has been done, but make it year long process it should be. This will ensure not only clear water ways for rain water lines but if you have a look at any new paper & accident news, then maximum causalities are caused by poor  workmanship of drainage/rain water chamber covers. So the keeping all the chamber covers in level will also help in road safety. We can also think of starting a quality control team at PMC which will keep moving all around city & silently record the work systems as well outcome of all road works related to drainage & rain water lines as well the same team can be used to check every job right from footpath paving to road dividers, so the common road user will be benefited at end! This team can mark every water logging point in rains & workout solution for the same. The very same team will check letting drainage in rain water lines or vice versa!
Then comes the basic reason for flooding & water as cause of destruction & every media is screaming at the top of their voice is closing of natural water channels or reducing their water carrying capacity! VDO shoot every channel/nallha/ stream & keep a digitalized record of the same so as it can be used as reference. Where there are plots along the slopes then make them compulsory to leave way for rain water flowing from adjoining properties from the earlier form of open plot; & this can be done on surface also! There has to be a standard design of bridge or causeway when a road is cutting the natural water channel & it has to be strictly followed, this will ensure free flow of natural water channels & avoid flooding.

Finally we all need rains as that’s essential for our living but a little bit of technical control can help in the rains not becoming a cause of destruction. Like Mike May said let the sound of pounding the water be soothing to our ears & let it not cause curse or shouts of pain from the listeners, then only we have succeeded as  Smart City!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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