There are many reasons why some parts of India flood more often than others. In the case of Assam, the Brahmaputra has changed course over the years, with erosion playing a major role in the flooding of the state. Kerala has seen extremely heavy rainfall, owing to which floods have been occurring for three years now.
However flooding in cities, which otherwise appear to be areas without any major water bodies, remains an unsolvable ‘mystery’, though they shouldn’t.
Experts say that the primary reasons for urban flooding include over concretisation, disappearing water bodies and encroachment in areas storm water drains. Drains too over time lose their capacity to carry water as waste and sewage are dumped into them – clogging the entire pathway.
Take the latest example. Many found it particularly surprising when a few hours of rainfall flooded the streets of Gurugram. But should it come as a surprise?
A 2014 report by the Delhi Parks and Gardens Society indicates at least 200 water bodies that existed in the city in the 20th Century, which have been encroached.
Here, we look at a few documented lakes, drains and other structures that were instrumental in preventing water-logging in Gurugram and that have been slowly disappearing over the years.
1. Ghata Lake
Mentioned in the Gazette of India (1883), Ghata lake is a seasonal water body that covered almost 370 acres until the early 2000s. The natural lake could hold some 50 feet of water until a few years ago. But unfortunately, it has been converted into a dumping ground.
This is even more shocking since the Ghata lake bed serves as a floodplain for storm water drains — especially those that enter Gurugram from Delhi.
Located in the Ghata village, this network is known as the Badshahpur drain and aids the drainage around the city, especially during monsoon. But, with the lake reducing to less than 50 acres and poor maintenance of the drain, flooding is almost inevitable.
The lake also recharges groundwater, something Gurugram is quickly growing short of.
Old survey maps of Gurugram that date back to the 1970s show that the area had several natural drainage lines and channels. But with increased urbanization of the cities and construction of roads, these seem to have disappeared over time.
Reports state that there were at least 118 bunds were present in the Gurugram-Faridabad area. But much information on them has ceased to exist over time. These small channels are helpful because they break the flow of water into smaller rivulets. Traditionally, they were also used to irrigate agricultural fields and recharge groundwater levels.
3. Traditional Dams
Since the time of the British Raj, there have been records of the existence of small dams in the are. Most of them existed in areas like Nuthupur, Wazirabad, Ghata, Manesar and Jharsa. In conversation with The Hindustan Times, an expert from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi said, “The Ghata dam spread to 5 square miles during the monsoons in the 1940s. Now it is non-existent.”
The disappearance of these dams results in the flooding of the Golf Course Road and its neighbouring areas.
But, all is not lost. Last year, efforts of city-based NGO IAmGurgaon and their collaboration with the state forest department helped restore the Wazirabad bund.
They were able to successfully desilt and clean the bund, which won them the Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment award in 2019 from the Housing and Urban Development Corporation of India (HUDCO).
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)