Unplanned urbanization poses a grave threat to the sustainability and well-being of cities and their inhabitants. This uncontrolled growth of urban areas often leads to a host of problems, including inadequate infrastructure, traffic congestion, pollution, and insufficient access to basic services such as healthcare and education. As cities expand haphazardly, natural ecosystems are frequently sacrificed, exacerbating environmental degradation and increasing the vulnerability to climate change. Moreover, the lack of proper urban planning and zoning regulations can result in the proliferation of informal settlements and slums, where living conditions are deplorable and residents face health and safety risks. To address these perils, it is imperative for governments and urban planners to prioritize comprehensive and sustainable urban development strategies, considering factors like land use, transportation, and environmental conservation to ensure that cities can grow harmoniously without compromising the well-being of their citizens and the environment.
Tag: GS Paper-3: Disaster Management.
Urban Flooding; Loss of water bodies; Way forward; Case study: Mangalore; Case study: Kaikondrahalli Lake in Bengaluru.
In the past few weeks, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai have been flooded. Other major cities like Hyderabad (in 2000), Srinagar (in 2014), Chennai (in 2021) and Bengaluru (in 2022) have also seen some areas being submerged during heavy rainfall.
Decoding the editorial: Urban Flooding
Loss of water bodies
- Most Indian cities are situated beside a river, with extensive floodplains and wetlands. In an ideal world, such areas would have been left untouched.
- Instead, India has lost 40 percent of its wetlands in the past 30 years.
- Delhi had 1,000 waterbodies in 1997 but now has just 700. With such a loss of natural “blue infrastructure”, flooding risks have increased.
Cities must take lead on climate change, rather than simply reacting to untoward events.
- Short, medium, and long-term measures to rejuvenate water bodies
- Studies must be conducted in all cities to understand the catchment area and flooding risk associated with urban water bodies and land use.
- Lake and river management plans should be defined and include the participation of the local citizenry in upkeep and a push to remove encroachments.
- Geographic information systems (GIS) may be used to tag local water bodies, to help keep track of encroachments and understand their seasonality.
- Investments need to be made in early warning systems (including Doppler radar).
- Local rainfall data can be integrated with the Central Water Commission and regional flood control efforts.
- Investments in city-wide databases that enable the provision of immediate relief in the event of a flooding-related disaster.
- Revamping and expanding drainage and stormwater networks across cities is needed.
- Existing pipelines need to be surveyed (whether drain or stormwater), and water-logging locations identified.
- Urban planning has to improve.
- In Delhi, a range of civic agencies manage the city’s drains, leading to coordination challenges.
- The DDA, Delhi Jal Board, Public Works Department, and municipal corporations, all regulate water bodies in Delhi.
- Coordination between agencies must improve.
- Awareness about wetland/water body conservation must be improved.
- The Wetland Authority of Delhi recently received requests to delist waterbodies from institutions like the Delhi Development Authority, highlighting limited awareness.
- A well-defined urban water policy must be prepared.
- Regulatory bodies like the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority can be granted statutory powers, while the participation of local communities is welcome.
- Civic participation must be encouraged.
Case study: Mangalore
- Until the mid-2000s, in Mangalore, wastewater from urban consumption would flow through open drains and into the city’s water bodies, polluting the freshwater sources.
- The Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) established wastewater treatment plants and offered to supply treated effluent to Mangalore Special Economic Zone Ltd (MSEZL) to meet its industrial need, with MSEZL-based private players pitching in with sourcing for 70 percent of operations and maintenance costs of the pumps and the sewage treatment plant.
Case study: Kaikondrahalli Lake in Bengaluru
- It suffered from severe sewage inflow, with silting and land formation due to eutrophication.
- Meanwhile, encroachment on the lake bed was a cause for concern, along with the dumping of debris and waste.
- BBMP sought to adopt a community-driven approach to reviving the lake in a phased manner as funds came by.
- Encroachers were served eviction notices, and the lake was secured.
- Sewage inflow was diverted away via a tapping pipeline.
- De-silting of the lake was conducted.
- Further restoration was carried out by developing inlets and outlets for the lake and creating embankments and a pathway around the water body.
- The original DPR was rather engineering-focused, pushing for creating gardens and fencing off the lake from the local underprivileged communities.
- Citizen engagement ensured that the DPR was modified, with a push for improving the local ecology, instead of mere aesthetics.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
FAQ 1: What is unplanned urbanization?
Answer: Unplanned urbanization refers to the growth of cities and urban areas without proper foresight, regulation, or urban development strategies. It often leads to disorganized expansion, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of consideration for environmental and social factors.
FAQ 2: What are the key perils associated with unplanned urbanization?
Answer: Unplanned urbanization can result in several perils, including congestion, increased pollution, insufficient access to essential services, encroachment on natural habitats, and the proliferation of slums or informal settlements. It can also exacerbate the vulnerability to climate change and strain resources.
FAQ 3: How does unplanned urbanization impact the environment?
Answer: Unplanned urbanization can have a detrimental impact on the environment. It often involves the destruction of natural habitats, deforestation, increased pollution from transportation and industrial activities, and higher energy consumption, all of which contribute to environmental degradation and climate change.
FAQ 4: What are the social consequences of unplanned urbanization?
Answer: Unplanned urbanization can result in social challenges such as inadequate access to healthcare, education, and housing, as well as increased crime rates. It may also lead to the creation of informal settlements, where living conditions are often substandard and pose health and safety risks.
FAQ 5: How can cities address the perils of unplanned urbanization?
Answer: To mitigate the perils of unplanned urbanization, cities can implement comprehensive urban planning and zoning regulations, invest in sustainable infrastructure, promote public transportation, and prioritize environmental conservation. Engaging the community and involving experts in urban development are crucial steps toward ensuring the growth of cities is well-managed and sustainable.
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