Extreme water logging and flood situation in channelized areas in Pune - A report

Nallahs and rainwater is good news. Not for Pune. 10 people lose their lives while the city administration neglects the maintenance of the near-natural channel system Pune enjoys.

Guest post by Parineeta Dandekar

While this news item was about to be published, Pune received heavy rains on the 4th of October (highest in the last 118 years, 104 mm in 40 minutes and 181.3 mm in 24 hours). While the city administration stressed that this was a cloud burst, this claim was quashed by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). This was said to a rare event, which was experienced in many places in Maharashtra.

10 people lost their lives to these rains, including three young children and a 25 year old Ph D researcher, Agnimitra Bannerjee, from National Chemical Laboratory, who was washed away in a channelised nallah stretch. Channels prove to be much more dangerous as the velocity of water is high and there is nothing to hold on to, in case a person falls in one of these fast-flowing nallah channels.

The bridge where Agnimtira fell off his bike was built on nallah, with only three pipes for water passage, which were insufficient to contain the heavy water flow which flowed over the road. When Agnimitra was thrown off his bike, he was washed away by the strong current in a channel made by a shanty on one side of the nallah and a permanent wall, right next to the nallah, without the mandatory 10 meters green zone, made by Indian Meteorological Department on the other side. In this channel, he would not find anything to hold to.

After Agnimitra was washed away, this wall of IMD collapsed. Even after 10 days from the fateful incidence, the remains of this wall are in the nallah bed, obstructing the flow, and have not been cleared.

How did the IMD get sanctions to build a wall next to the nallah and a septic tank right inside?

Pic 1: The nallah where Agnimitra lost his life. Notice no guard stones on the road and three, tiny pipe outlets for water. The nallah is walled from both sides and the wall of IMD compound has collapsed. Photo: Author

Pic 2: Notice the IMD compound wall right in the nallah and transit hostel on the right. The debris of the collapsed wall lies in the nallah bed. Photo: Author

Water logging was extensive all over the city and water also entered Municipal Commissioner’s Bunglow, while wall of Additional Commissioner’s bunglow collapsed. The incident was a clear result of choking and encroachment on a nearby Nallah. Vehicles were washed off and people spent 6-7 hrs in traffic jams, in the face of water logged roads.

The city administration, which was enthusiastically supporting the channelization work, has now rapidly approved Rs. 50 crores as an emergency fund for restoring the ‘natural state’ of nallahs and dechannelisation! Many reports have indicated the faulty channels have caused more hindrance to the flow, by reducing nallah depth and width. This has resulted in extreme water logging and flood situations, especially in channelized areas. It is more than clear that channelization has very little to do with increasing the carrying capacity of nallahs. Pune has witnessed the opposite to be true.

The real problem lies with the heavy encroachment on nallahs, rampant building permissions along the green belt, ‘friendly relations’ of the city administrators with the builders lobby, and severely flawed channelization.

The citizens of Pune hope that the PMC has learned its lesson the hard way and will now try and maintain the city streams their near-natural, unhindered state. While dechannelisation is welcome, what will be the city administration’s stand on encroachment and construction on nallahs by powerful builders and the permissions which were granted by their office?

Its time for all Indian cities, be it Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi or Kolkata to open their eyes towards the dismal and dangerous management of their water bodies.


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