Drowning again: Monsoon rainfall shows up pitiful national capital region infrastructure, drainage

Heavy seasonal rainfall on Wednesday saw many parts of the national capital region hit by flooded roads and homes. It’s a familiar story that plays out every year with minor deviation. The flooding was particularly severe in Gurgaon where underpasses were inundated, drowning cars. Some motorists had to swim to safety, and NCR’s so-called Millennium City is now being likened to Venice. In Delhi traffic was backed up several kilometres – the result of a combination of poor road construction and bad drainage.

NCR houses India’s politically powerful. But the latter don’t seem to mind, or notice, the decaying civic infrastructure and lack of urban planning right under their noses. Delhi is stuck with a drainage system that dates back to 1976. Gurgaon has been an urbanisation nightmare. It did not have a metropolitan development authority till 2017 and a municipal corporation till 2007. Land was parcelled off to developers for swanky residential townships decades ago, but without supporting civic infrastructure. Additionally, Gurgaon’s natural drains and dams have been disrupted due to the haphazard urbanisation, compounding the flooding problem. Interestingly, Noida fared much better with little inconvenience being reported. This just goes to show that a modicum of urban planning can work wonders.

The NCR is one of the largest urban agglomerations in the country and the centre of political power. If we can’t get civic infrastructure right here, how can we incentivise local manufacturing under Atmanirbhar Bharat or attract foreign investors as part of Make in India? If India is to attract firms away from China, it has to provide conducive physical infrastructure – good roads, proper drainage and dependable electricity supply. Else, dreams of a $5 trillion economy will wash away just like our roads after a downpour.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.