CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news report published in The New Indian Express.

Image source: The New Indian Express

On Monday, the overnight incessant downpour flooded the city, leading to ‘Operation Breakthrough’, helmed by the district administration. Within four hours, with effective coordination and the involvement of around 2,800 people, the roads were cleared, resuming normal life in the city. 

However, ‘Operation Breakthrough’ is a temporary measure which had to be implemented due to the inefficient drainage networks in the city, along with the apathy of the Kochi Corporation, NHAI and the Railways, which were supposed to clean the canals and smaller drains before the monsoon. 

Nevertheless, town planning experts reiterate that the poorly-planned city and technology that date back to decades, could be the primary culprits of the recurring situation. 

“Firstly, the volume of water received has increased over the years. We received about 20 cm of rainfall over 24 hours in the city. Nevertheless, there is a lack of understanding of the system of stormwater drainage. Drains that have been constructed in a very dated way. Technology has improved yet the departments concerned haven’t. We usually hire a local contractor and tender it out. Even the TOR (tender-opening register) for the tenders are redundant. We are behind in accepting technology, updating our knowledge and upgrading engineering provisions. These have solutions but the governing system is not ready to accept changes,” said D Dhanuraj, chairperson, Centre for Public Policy Research.  

Albeit, a poorly-planned city can suffer consequences regardless of updated technology. “Ideally, there should be a street management plan, not a road construction plan. In the former, pedestrian facilities, roads and stormwater drainage are included. For such street planning, the topography of the area, along with the volume of water received during monsoons, must be understood,” he said. 

The primary aim of ‘Operation Breakthrough’ was to coordinate various departments including the PWD, KSEB, Revenue, Fire and Rescue, Irrigation and the Corporation to reduce waterlogging on the roads.
 According to Dhanuraj, the existence of multiple agencies in itself results in a lack of coordination. The aforementioned street management plan must be the responsibility of solely one department, he said.
 
Whom to blame?
While canals in the city fall under the onus of the Irrigation Department, the corporation is in-charge of smaller drains. Reports also suggest that the drains constructed by KMRL are unscientific. 
  While various stakeholders are involved in the blame game, former mayor K J Sohan opined that if the Corporation was in charge of the arterial canals, including the Thevara-Perandoor canal, which falls under the Irrigation Department, cleaning and de-silting would have been completed on time.  
 

“The respective councillors are in-charge of deciding the drains that require to be cleared. Canal cleaning was completed in May. However, we had an extended monsoon. Therefore, the prior work wasn’t sufficient. Currently, what we require is a drain masterplan which considers several aspects such as the direction of flow and the proximity to the sea,” said PM Harris, chairperson, Kochi corporation works standing committee.

This news report was published in The New Indian Express on October 23, 2019 Click here to read

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