Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Guwahati Flash Floods: A warning call for holistic approach

By The Assam Tribune
Guwahati Flash Floods: A warning call for holistic approach
X

AT Photo 

Guwahati, June 20: Residents of Guwahati are witnessing a nightmare since last week, as flash floods due to torrential rains have brought life to a grinding halt. When the city starts flooding after continuous heavy downpour, the focus is on the breakdown of public services, the closing of schools, and difficulty in transportation, among others. Apart from throwing life out of gear, these problems make headlines for a few days, however, what is missed is the focus on what causes the floods and how it needs to be mitigated.

The city of Guwahati is located at the banks of the river Brahmaputra and several of its tributaries pass through the city. Urban growth in the city has been rapid, with uncontrolled development activities. With no options left but to watch everything being inundated, the people were seen witnessing the threatening flood situation resulting in property damage and a huge risk to the lives in the residential areas. Moreover, the narrative that public should be responsible in discarding their garbage has gained momentum. Nevertheless, a lot needs to be done other than the blame game.

"The current situation is a result of a series of failures of the present and past governments. Blaming it on irresponsible citizens is just a tool of escapism. A soon-to-be smart city doesn't have a sewerage system of its own, but relies on natural rivers for the same, which in turn resulted in one of the most polluted rivers of the country. Government bodies should act responsibly, make plan and execution transparent to the public so that we the public can understand what is there in their minds," says researcher and activist Arup Jyoti Das.

Guwahati being surrounded by wet lands is under threat due to encroachment and unplanned urban development. The city is prone to floods and landslides and falls in the highest seismic risk zone. In addition to being vulnerable to these natural hazards, it is frequently affected by seasonal flash floods, which are not entirely caused by natural factors alone.

Studies suggest that the key sectors which should be studied to understand the risk profile of the city for devising suitable strategies for resilience include, housing and urban planning; urban infrastructure and services (water supply, sewerage, natural and storm water drainage, solid waste management, electricity, health); informal settlements and slums; poverty and livelihood; ecosystems and land-use; emergency response capacity etc.

However, experts say that consistent negligence and lack of attention to address the fundamental issues, year after year, has now made the problem more complicated and complex.

While speaking to The Assam Tribune, Dr Partha Jyoti Das, Senior Environmental Scientist, Head (Water, Climate and Hazard Division), Aaranyak, Guwahati stated that the city experiences severe impacts of flash floods which are triggered by inadequate civic amenities and negligence of existing natural drain basins. The present scenario is just an example of what can happen if proper policy and management is not in place, although institutions are in pace to tackle such crises.

"One of the most basic causes is the inability to drain out the water accumulating from rains, which happens because the natural drainage system of the city consisting of natural water ways (rivers/rivulets) and natural storage (wetlands) is highly degraded and fragmented, and they are unable to carry the rain-induced run-off to the sinks like the Brahmaputra. On the other hand, the man-made drainage system is inefficient due to inappropriate design, clogging with high volume of sediment coming from the hills, and huge amount of garbage generated by the city population. Thus, both our natural water ways and drains have lost their capacity to drain off the storm water as it gets filled with sediment and solid waste consisting mainly of plastic wastes. Therefore, basically it is problem of drainage-failure resulting in inundation of the roads and settlements of the city," said Dr Das.

Although crores of rupees have been spent to clear the water channels, things have remained gloomy so far. According to reports, the situation gets worse when storm water from the hills including that of Meghalaya accumulate into the city's drainage system, as such it becomes indispensable to clean and desilt the water channels at regular intervals to get rid of water logging.

Dr Das asserted, "the recent efforts to clean the Bharalu in the last 10 years were half-hearted attempts to do things without any long-term objective, plan, and scientifically correct and technologically feasible strategy. Therefore, it didn't yield the desired result. For example, in some places the muck, dug out of the riverbed, were dumped on the riverbanks, which later got drained back to the channel with the next showers of rainfall. Similarly, the river and its banks must be made free of encroachment and at the same time de-silted regularly and widened to increase the water carrying capacity of the channel."

He further highlighted the need for a long-term action plan and implementation of the same for restoration and rejuvenation of the Bharalu and other hydrologically connected water ways and wetlands like the Basistha, Bahini, Mora Bharalu, Bondajan, Deepar Beel, Silsakon Beel, Borsola Beel and Saru Sola Beel etc. "Only such a long-term vision and accompanying innovative strategies to increase the efficiency of the drainage system will help us to get rid of the problem to a desired extent," added Dr Das.

On being asked about the possible measures the present scenario demands to mitigate flash floods in the city, Dr Das observed that probable impact of climate change on the rainfall pattern of Guwahati and its surrounding area including the neighbouring hills of Meghalaya need to be considered. Besides, the possibility of extreme rainfall events must be accounted for while designing the drainage system, sluice gates, guard walls, and other hydraulic structures constructed as part of the city drainage infrastructure.

Moreover, Dr Das suggested that the citizens of Guwahati need to be served with flash flood alerts and necessary advisories so that the people can plan their activities, regulate their movement, and make necessary preparations to face the floods. The areas and wards most vulnerable to flash floods and landslides need to be identified and mapped out and such information has to be disseminated among the people to reduce inconvenience, loss and damage to life, property and assets.

Next Story
Similar Posts
Guwahati Flash Floods: A warning call for holistic approach

Guwahati, June 20: Residents of Guwahati are witnessing a nightmare since last week, as flash floods due to torrential rains have brought life to a grinding halt. When the city starts flooding after continuous heavy downpour, the focus is on the breakdown of public services, the closing of schools, and difficulty in transportation, among others. Apart from throwing life out of gear, these problems make headlines for a few days, however, what is missed is the focus on what causes the floods and how it needs to be mitigated.

The city of Guwahati is located at the banks of the river Brahmaputra and several of its tributaries pass through the city. Urban growth in the city has been rapid, with uncontrolled development activities. With no options left but to watch everything being inundated, the people were seen witnessing the threatening flood situation resulting in property damage and a huge risk to the lives in the residential areas. Moreover, the narrative that public should be responsible in discarding their garbage has gained momentum. Nevertheless, a lot needs to be done other than the blame game.

"The current situation is a result of a series of failures of the present and past governments. Blaming it on irresponsible citizens is just a tool of escapism. A soon-to-be smart city doesn't have a sewerage system of its own, but relies on natural rivers for the same, which in turn resulted in one of the most polluted rivers of the country. Government bodies should act responsibly, make plan and execution transparent to the public so that we the public can understand what is there in their minds," says researcher and activist Arup Jyoti Das.

Guwahati being surrounded by wet lands is under threat due to encroachment and unplanned urban development. The city is prone to floods and landslides and falls in the highest seismic risk zone. In addition to being vulnerable to these natural hazards, it is frequently affected by seasonal flash floods, which are not entirely caused by natural factors alone.

Studies suggest that the key sectors which should be studied to understand the risk profile of the city for devising suitable strategies for resilience include, housing and urban planning; urban infrastructure and services (water supply, sewerage, natural and storm water drainage, solid waste management, electricity, health); informal settlements and slums; poverty and livelihood; ecosystems and land-use; emergency response capacity etc.

However, experts say that consistent negligence and lack of attention to address the fundamental issues, year after year, has now made the problem more complicated and complex.

While speaking to The Assam Tribune, Dr Partha Jyoti Das, Senior Environmental Scientist, Head (Water, Climate and Hazard Division), Aaranyak, Guwahati stated that the city experiences severe impacts of flash floods which are triggered by inadequate civic amenities and negligence of existing natural drain basins. The present scenario is just an example of what can happen if proper policy and management is not in place, although institutions are in pace to tackle such crises.

"One of the most basic causes is the inability to drain out the water accumulating from rains, which happens because the natural drainage system of the city consisting of natural water ways (rivers/rivulets) and natural storage (wetlands) is highly degraded and fragmented, and they are unable to carry the rain-induced run-off to the sinks like the Brahmaputra. On the other hand, the man-made drainage system is inefficient due to inappropriate design, clogging with high volume of sediment coming from the hills, and huge amount of garbage generated by the city population. Thus, both our natural water ways and drains have lost their capacity to drain off the storm water as it gets filled with sediment and solid waste consisting mainly of plastic wastes. Therefore, basically it is problem of drainage-failure resulting in inundation of the roads and settlements of the city," said Dr Das.

Although crores of rupees have been spent to clear the water channels, things have remained gloomy so far. According to reports, the situation gets worse when storm water from the hills including that of Meghalaya accumulate into the city's drainage system, as such it becomes indispensable to clean and desilt the water channels at regular intervals to get rid of water logging.

Dr Das asserted, "the recent efforts to clean the Bharalu in the last 10 years were half-hearted attempts to do things without any long-term objective, plan, and scientifically correct and technologically feasible strategy. Therefore, it didn't yield the desired result. For example, in some places the muck, dug out of the riverbed, were dumped on the riverbanks, which later got drained back to the channel with the next showers of rainfall. Similarly, the river and its banks must be made free of encroachment and at the same time de-silted regularly and widened to increase the water carrying capacity of the channel."

He further highlighted the need for a long-term action plan and implementation of the same for restoration and rejuvenation of the Bharalu and other hydrologically connected water ways and wetlands like the Basistha, Bahini, Mora Bharalu, Bondajan, Deepar Beel, Silsakon Beel, Borsola Beel and Saru Sola Beel etc. "Only such a long-term vision and accompanying innovative strategies to increase the efficiency of the drainage system will help us to get rid of the problem to a desired extent," added Dr Das.

On being asked about the possible measures the present scenario demands to mitigate flash floods in the city, Dr Das observed that probable impact of climate change on the rainfall pattern of Guwahati and its surrounding area including the neighbouring hills of Meghalaya need to be considered. Besides, the possibility of extreme rainfall events must be accounted for while designing the drainage system, sluice gates, guard walls, and other hydraulic structures constructed as part of the city drainage infrastructure.

Moreover, Dr Das suggested that the citizens of Guwahati need to be served with flash flood alerts and necessary advisories so that the people can plan their activities, regulate their movement, and make necessary preparations to face the floods. The areas and wards most vulnerable to flash floods and landslides need to be identified and mapped out and such information has to be disseminated among the people to reduce inconvenience, loss and damage to life, property and assets.