Kalmadi’s Curse

Delhi has been dug up for the Commonwealth Games. With heavy rains, it all might get real messy
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi

Come rains and chances are Delhi - dug up for Commonwealth Games - might face massive water-logging. With the metrological department predicting a surplus monsoon, the crores spent on the city's cosmetic surgery might just get washed away. 
"Delhi faces water-logging during rains. With the civic agencies not serious about drainage, the city might come to a halt," says Sunil Bose, Deputy Director, Central Roads Research Institute, Delhi. This could lead to roads caving in. Rubble, thousands of concrete blocks and tonnes of mud lie by the wayside. "All this would choke traffic and the flow of water. Blockage in one drain can adversely affect the adjoining ones," warns Bose. 

Excessive use of concrete adds to water-logging. "This means that less water will seep into the ground," says KT Ravindran, Chairman, Delhi Urban Arts Commission. (Clearance for beautification etc has not been taken from the Commission.) Ram Kishan Singhal, former MCD standing committee chairman, had written to the MCD commissioner raising doubts if the guidelines of Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure Centre are being adhered to. "These guidelines are only being partially followed," says Ravindran. 

The pavements, showcased as disabled-friendly, look otherwise. "The height of the pavement is so high that normal people find it tough, so forget about the disabled," says Sanjukta Bhaduri, head of the urban planning department at School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. With over-bridges and electric poles encroaching on the area for pedestrians, it becomes tougher for the disabled. There are one foot high pavements at IP estate. This area is stalked by bad drainage and the sewage water gets mixed up with rainwater entering the buildings.

NDMC says re-laying pavements was necessary since Delhi has to be made pedestrian friendly. "All this is a part of the pavement improvement plan. Last time it was done during Asiad," says Anand Tewari, spokesperson, NDMC. 

Excessive concretisation is affecting the micro climate. With nullahs being concretised, the areas meant to absorb heat will now radiate it, making the atmosphere even hotter. "They are creating a heat island in the middle of the city and planting trees on the periphery. How logical is that?" asks Ravindran.

With serious drinking water crisis, mindless construction will add to the woes of citizens. "They are allowing construction on the flood plains from where Delhi gets a sizeable quantity of groundwater. More paved surface will reduce the percolation of water in the aquifers," says Prof Ashok K Keshari, hydrologist at IIT, Delhi. With excessive water being drawn from this area for construction, things will only worsen, he adds. Since rainwater dilutes the toxicity of groundwater, if it does not seep in, there is danger of groundwater becoming more hazardous.

One 1MGD water treatment plant has been inaugurated near the games village to provide 'first world water' to athletes (later, the builders). Costing Rs 35 crore, this plant will source water from the ranney and deep bore wells in the flood plains. Keshari feels this will add to water scarcity.

"It would have been better had they completed the work a year in advance. This would have given them extra time for testing/rectifying faults. It's a case of poor planning," says Ravindran. "It's likely that they are compromising on quality.""If we are asked to do 36 months work in 18 months, discrepancies are bound to creep in," says a senior engineer of NDMC overseeing an unfinished stadia. "As an engineer one can't afford to compromise on the concrete's quality, but lesser important things like tiles, fixtures etc can be refitted later." 

With less than 100 days left for the expensive extravaganza, with expenditure running into thousands of crores, there are many projects which might just get completed at the last minute in August, including the hyped Barapullah Nullah elevated road and Shivaji Stadium. 
Indeed, with the monsoon, deadlines might be dangerously pushed. Agrees an NDMC engineer, "Heavy rains may lead to further delays. It all can get real messy."

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JULY 2010

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