New Delhi: As the national capital continues to cope with the after-effects of heavy showers with some places still waterlogged, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says five decades of bad planning was responsible for Delhi coming to a virtual standstill on that rained out Monday three days ago.
Advocating that responsibility be fixed on authorities, the nodal agency for managing disasters in the country feels that the situation worsens every year.
"Fifty years of bad planning cannot be rectified in one day," NDMA Vice Chairman General N.C. Vij said.
"Yes, it was a tough day for Delhi. Urban flooding is a real worry in big cities. Look at our sewer systems," he said, referring to the deluge that led to many areas in the city being submerged, key underpasses turning to swimming pools, roads caving in and traffic lights blinking out.
Delhi received 126 mm of rainfall on Monday evening. Millions of Delhiites were trapped on the streets in the hours of utter chaos that followed, exposing the government claim that the capital will become a world class city before next year's Commonwealth Games. The overflowing drains, waterlogging and subsequent traffic standstill were a major embarrassment for both the Delhi government and the civic agencies, who blamed each other.
Despite a sum of Rs 200 million being spent for desilting 1,500 drains across the city ahead of the monsoon, authorities were hard pressed for an explanation.
"The problem is civic authorities cleaned the drain and put the soil and garbage on its side. When the rain came, it went back into the drain," said Vij, a former army chief.
His colleague Lt Gen J R Bharadwaj added: "Accountability needs to be fixed on civic authorities who are in charge of doing the work. Agencies like the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) and the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) need to be made accountable."
"It's happening year after year. The situation is worsening. Unless you hold someone responsible, things won't improve. Let me also say that only authorities are not at fault completely -- we as citizens too have our share of faults.
"People are building houses on roads, covering drains. Some colonies don't have even a proper drainage system," Bharadwaj, who is member of the NDMA, said.
Vij agreed and said it was not always right to criticise the government alone. "They (governments) are conscious now and are doing a number of good works. Disaster management is definitely in their mind."
He said the NDMA would soon launch a disaster management plan for urban flooding. "In a couple of months, we will unveil that. We are mainly targeting five-six big cities where it is a huge problem."
"It's a problem in Delhi, but in Mumbai it (urban flooding) is a bigger problem. The problem is almost similar in other metro cities. We in the NDMA believe that the plan will help government, civic agencies and public in general.
"This upcoming plan is a combination of urban best practices. We hope in future time these guidelines will help us to prepare better," Vij added.