Saving Our Cities : Overcoming Urban Flooding Through Community Efforts
On a cloudy Thursday morning, 42 year old Mr. Nayak (name changed) began his journey from his home to his ofﬁce in Mumbai. The meteorological agencies had been forecasting heavy rainfall since early week. According to the forecast, heavy rainfall was to coincide with a high tide situation. Little did he know that ignoring the warnings would make him a victim of urban ﬂood. He was stuck in trafﬁc for 7 hours due to extremely heavy rainfall. On the same day, it was reported that a person went missing in ﬂood waters. Of late, urban ﬂood has become a pertinent issue in cities across the world.
Urban ﬂood is caused by three main factors – meteorological, hydrological and human. Meteorological factors include heavy rainfall, cyclonic storms and thunderstorms; hydrological factors include presence or absence of overbank ﬂow channel networks and occurrence of high tides impeding the drainage.Human activities such as - land use changes, surface sealing due to urbanization which increases runoff, occupation of ﬂood plains which obstructs natural ﬂow, lack of drainage, sudden release of water from dams located upstream of citizen towns, the failure to release water from dams resulting in backwater effect, the indiscriminate disposal of solid waste into urban water drains and channels creating an impediment to water ﬂow during the monsoon season - majorly contribute to urban ﬂooding.
Concrete jungles, as urban areas are sometimes referred to, have little open soil to enable underground water replenishment. High intensity rainfall can lead to urban ﬂooding in a matter of minutes especially when the city sewage system and draining canals do not have the necessary capacity to drain the amount of rain water falling. Rainwater may even enter the sewage system from one place and then overﬂow somewhere else in the city.
Effects of an urban ﬂood and prevention efforts by the community
Floods disrupt the day to day activities in cities. Even when the ﬂood waters recede, they leave behind an increased chance of disease outbreak such as malaria, cholera, dengue (and now COVID-19) etc.
In this regard, the role of the community is critical to spread awareness about the possible disaster in their area. Community engagement programs, workshops, awareness generation activities, technical audits etc., help in improving capacity building of communities. Preparation and prevention tips shared via different communication channels such as radio, television, print and social media and making children aware of the impacts of urban ﬂooding at school via syllabus, safety drills etc., also contribute to making a ﬂood-resilient community.
Resident Welfare Association meetings, Basti Committees, Self Help Groups, youth clubs, NGOs and other social-cultural organisations which focus on safety during disasters, help in sharing valuable information and persuading individuals to take up the responsibility of proper waste disposal and effective water management.
The occurrence and impact of urban ﬂoods can be reduced with a systematic approach. Though much is needed to tackle the issues related to governance and enforcement, such, at the community level, each city dweller can do his/her bit.
What is the role of an individual?
The ﬁrst step while combating any disaster is to ensure that one is aware and prepared for that disaster. To prevent an area from urban ﬂooding, it is important to not litter waste, plastic bags, plastic bottles in drains. One may also cover their assets against natural disasters. Keep an eye on weather updates - especially during the rainy season- from veriﬁed sources and if possible disseminate the same within your community.
One must obey orders by the authorities and shift to a safer place when asked to do so. If at home, switch off the electrical supply. Don't touch open wires. Simple measures such as installing the gas connection, water heater and electric panels high above the ground can go a long way in reducing damage. Most importantly, don't get carried away by rumours.
Facing an urban ﬂood can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Post-urban ﬂood care is as necessary as pre-urban ﬂood preparation. For this purpose and to prevent oneself from getting ill, sprinkle insecticides in the water ponds/stagnant water to prevent breeding of mosquitoes, drinking chlorinated or boiled water is important along with eating clean and safe food.
While there are still challenges pertaining to mitigation of urban ﬂoods; technological advancement, infrastructural improvements along with the combined and consistent effort by urban local bodies, communities and individuals can help in successfully overcoming the threat of urban ﬂoods.
1.Comments will be moderated by NDMA'seditorial team. 2.Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published. 3.Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and'). 4.We may remove hyperlinks within comments. 5.Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.