Under the series, #Local Governance, #IMPRI Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a #WebPolicyTalk, on the topic “Breaking Down Bengaluru Floods” on September 29, 2022. Inaugurating the session Ms Tripta Behera, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers for the session. The speaker panel included Leo F. Saldanha, Coordinator and Founding Trustee, Environment Support Group (ESG), Bengaluru, and Bhargavi S Rao, Senior Fellow & Trustee, Environment Support Group (ESG), Bengaluru. The event was moderated by Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI, New Delhi.
Commencing the program, Shri Tikender Singh Panwar talked about the challenge of urban flooding faced by Indian cities highlighting the recent incident that happened in Bengaluru. He pointed towards the more project-oriented approach and building of smart cities, bringing in lots of infrastructure without recognizing the city dynamics as reasons for the same. He also talked about class dynamics while discussing the consequences of flooding. He mentioned proper city planning and people’s participation as some of the solutions for sustainable cities.
The event was proceeded by Bhargavi S Rao. She talked about the reasons for such flooding situations in urban cities and mentioned the weakening of EIA Notification in 2006, the lack of public oversight encouraging encroachment, construction, sand mining, etc. She further talked about reasons specific to the Bengaluru floods including the improper building bye-laws, sidestepped rules of Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act of 1961, ignoring the recommendations of various committees and some court orders stressing the importance of wetlands and commons protection, not incorporating the knowledge of governing lakes and associated livelihoods in Bengaluru master plans and the dysfunctional ward committees.
She further talked about the undemocratic and unintelligent planning on lake beds, in watersheds, and altering the drainage patterns in Bengaluru. She mentioned how gated neighbourhoods, lack of rationale network of roads, and concretized multistoried complexes have magnified flooding. Continuing her talk she discussed the impacts of poor planning with a major bump on the livelihood of the poor, religious and caste minorities who when unable to attend work lose their pay, get little rehabilitation support, and even amongst the poor, women, children, and senior citizens suffer the most.
Continuing the event further Leo F. Saldanha shared his views regarding how Indian cities are planned in a way that they become recipients of the consequences of unintelligent actions of governance and common sense. He mentioned the data on people dying because of urban flooding provided by the National Crime Bureau and a few instances of such deaths. He talked about how the sense of urbanism is lacking in humanism due to the aggressive notion of capitalism and that the mere copying of the projects undertaken by other countries without understanding the topography and climate of India will just worsen the problem.
He then talked about the Bengaluru landscape and showed through the help of maps the interconnectedness of the lakes there which have been ruptured because of the construction projects going on. He talked about the need to open up spaces and how the approach that is followed is not at all futuristic and holding water back due to construction will only lead to destruction in the city.
He also discussed the encroachment of local communities and mentioned that there has been a net decrease in the groundwater aquifers and the amount of water recharge area has also come down in the central part of Bangalore. He concluded his talk by saying that there is a lack of serious democratization of making common sense a fundamental part of decision-making and that there is a need for interdisciplinary and intersectoral appreciation of human settlement rather than just reductionist responses by civil society.
Ending this informative session, the moderator of the session, Shri Tikender Singh Panwar gave his concluding remarks and thanked the eminent speakers for bringing in the much-needed explanation. In the end, the event was concluded with a final vote of thanks by Ms Tripta Behera on behalf of #IMPRI Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS).
Acknowledge: Fiza Mahajan, research intern at IMPRI