Planning our drainage system

The city of Chennai in neighbouring India has been pounded by torrential rains for the last many days. Rainfall has exceeded normal limits by over three times.

Most Chennians who are bearing the brunt of the wrath of nature were not even born when the fourth largest Indian city experienced such a deluge in its history. There are lots of theories drawn as experts attempt to find out why the downpour has gone on for days. But more importantly, they are also finding out why the city is seeing its worst floods.

All fingers are pointing to the drainage system that was not functional. With all the drains, creeks and culverts blocked with excessive dumping of garbage there was no way the excess water could be drained into the sea. The city is clogged. Roads have become rivers and houses are flooded with water mixed with raw sewage. The volume of water has overwhelmed the city. There are many who believe a proper drainage system could have eased the problem.

There is lesson to learn. It is staring us in the face especially those who work in the thromde. The sky over Thimphu and much of Bhutan is overcast with dark clouds. We could experience some rainfall, probably not even a few centimetres. But when it is monsoon in Bhutan, the slightest downpour is enough to expose our terrible and ineffective drainage system. This is not only in Thimphu.

Water overflowing on roads, blocked drains and raw sewage on the roads is a common sight in summer. All it takes is a few minutes of heavy rains to expose our poor system. This summer we had police coming to rescue property when a basement of a building was flooded with rainwater overflowing form clogged drains and culverts.

From the way our drainage system is maintained, we will never be able to manage a few hours of heavy rains. If we have built some, they are blocked with garbage carelessly thrown in it. In fact, open drains are the favourite dump yard for the city’s residents. Even with door-to-door service of collecting waste, the drains are not spared.

Quite often we leave it until we are hit and is forgotten after the danger is over. The approach to urban governance needs to change. Thimphu may not be as plain as Chennai, but we bear the brunt of heavy rains every summer. In fact, located on the fragile and young Himalayan mountain system, we are more vulnerable.

With the thromde election around the corner, this would be a good reminder to those mulling to contest. Ensuring proper drainage system and storm water channels should be a priority for the thromdes.

The Prime Minister in congratulating the new Thimphu thromde’s executive secretary yesterday made it clear when he said he is looking forward to working with the new secretary to repair potholed roads, clear storm drains and improve drinking water supply.

The priorities are clear and it is very welcome that the pathetic state of our drains is a priority. We need good and better drains, well maintained roads, and an efficient water supply, not lip service.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    I haven’t found many who didn’t welcome the monsoon rains in Chennai as it brings such refreshing relief from the heat and the humidity. After this disaster with record breaking rain fall recorded, everyone will fear the rain a bit in a few years to come. And when the fears will be gone, we just wait for another monsoon to break the records leaving all a bit unprepared.

    Somewhere it’s mentioned our city roads turning into flooded rivers with drains overflowing. At times, we wish that our roads were planned and developed to be a lot more able drains to deal with the rain water in its direct disposal. When we can plan the roadside drains for that purpose, doing it with the roads shouldn’t be impossible. But it only sounds rather weird.

    When we allow all rain waters to drain into the drainage system which are anyway criticised for its ineffectiveness and inefficiency, one only waits a commendable performance from the rain clouds to leave our drains overflowing on to the roads and everywhere. Now it’s dirty flood water. We have seen that in Thimphu with lesser rainfall. Good thing is that, Thimphu not being as plain as Chennai, roads become better drains. Hope that we could have planned our roads with drainage in mind just like we do with the drainage system especially and exclusively to deal with rain water.

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