IIT Delhi has a master drainage plan for the Capital, but it remains unimplemented

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  • IIT-D had submitted the new drainage plan to the Delhi government 18 months ago.
  • One of the major suggestions is the revival of the natural drainage basins of the Capital which are fast disappearing.
  • PWD says that different departments are assigned specific tasks for the “theoretical report” to turn it into a practical project.

While Delhi is not exactly known for the kind of monsoons Mumbai deals with, water-logging has increasingly become a problem in the Capital. A little rain results in standing water puddles, mounting traffic and a series of issues more. So, what exactly is the problem?

For starters, the Capital is functioning with a drainage plan that is a few decades old. And while a new plan has been formulated, it has not been implemented yet.

In 2012, Sheila Dikshit, the then chief minister of Delhi, announced that a reform in the Capital’s drainage plan was needed. Considering that the last drainage plan for the city was designed in 1976, a reform was more than a little necessary.

Dikshit gave IIT Delhi (IIT-D) the task to come up with the new master plan.

IIT-D submitted the new plan 18 months back, however, the Delhi government has still not taken up any of their recommendations. They are apparently facing a bureaucratic maze where “nothing has been done so far” because there are no systems in place to make the changes and the concerned people are disinterested.

And thanks to that, the result is that the Capital comes to a halt after little to moderate rainfall.


Here’s how the university came up with their plan

Delhi has 700 km of drainage and IIT-D first scientifically quantified the volume of water that flows in them and then, came up with several ways to increase the volume.

This included rectifying slopes of drains, width adjustments, siltation removal and revival of the natural drainage system which runs across 426.555 km in Delhi.

The natural drainage basins of the Capital are fast disappearing. The 1976 drainage master plan had identified 201 major natural drainage basins. However, 44 of them can not be located anymore and the others are so “permanently” silted that no one knows about their actual dimensions any longer, like the ones in Barapullah and Najafgarh.

IIT-D also pointed out that the increase in the area under paved surfaces have lead to a reduction in water percolation and are resulting in standing dirty water on the roads.

The only immediate solution that they recommended was to completely clean the stormwater and the sewage system.

They recommended that the Delhi Jal Board use super suckers for unclogging the sewer lanes. The draft also mentioned that the stormwater drainage system should be kept free of solid waste.

Fifty percent of Delhi does not segregate between stormwater and sewage since more than half of houses are not even connected to a sewage system and therefore, open drainage is used as a dustbin.

Other recommendations included complete separation of the networks carrying sewage and stormwater, unified framework for drainage with a common plan, laying down of pipes to channel rainwater away from the surface to nearby parks or water bodies and the revival of natural drains.

The Public Works Department (PWD) has argued that it is only a theoretical report and it has been converted to a practical project after different departments were allocated specific tasks to make it happen. The deadline for this theory to practice plan has been set for 2031. And in all this, the Delhi government’s department of irrigation and flood control was given the task to work on it with IIT-D. All departments were given the recommendation draft for their inputs.

One problem with the system is the multiplicity of agencies and the absence of a common framework on drainage. There are 10 agencies, including the municipal corporations, PWD, Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), and the irrigation and flood control department. With so many authorities to deal with, IIT-D believes that lack of leadership is a major hurdle when it comes to implementing the plan.

And while the plan flails through this bureaucratic maze, Delhi will just have to deal with water-logging till things work out.
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