Rajat Sharma

How civic apathy caused deluge in Patna, Varanasi

akbAfter torrential downpour for nearly 72 hours, Bihar’s capital Patna witnessed massive waterlogging affecting 16 lakh out of its nearly 20 lakh population. Lakhs of residents were forced to live without electricity and phone connections, as rising water level from Ganga flooded vast areas of the city.

This was the second heaviest rainfall in Patna in the last 50 years, and among those marooned was Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi. He and his family members had to be rescued by boats by the State Disaster Response Force. Thousands of vehicles in the city were completely submerged in the deluge. Marooned people were forced to live for three days without drinking water.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar undertook an aerial survey of Patna’s waterlogged areas on Monday. Heavy rains have also caused damage in 15 other districts of Bihar, as the rising water levels of Ganga damaged embankments in Nalanda and Jehanabad.

The main cause of waterlogging in Patna appears to be inexcusable civic apathy on part of the local authorities towards the city’s drainage system . Drains in the city have been built over the years without any scientific planning. Over the last several decades, the focus was only on low lying areas on the flood plains of Ganga, and there was simply no plan for a situation if the water levels of Ganga rose.

Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Ashwini Choubey made an insensitive remark by saying that heavy rains during ‘Hathia nakshatra’ (constellation of stars) are always severe.

A minister citing star constellation as the reason for downpour in the 21st century seems to be more of a joke. Almanacs are prepared by astrologers in advance and if the minister believed so much in the theory of star constellations causing rainfall, he could have alerted his colleagues to make preparations.

The main cause behind waterlogging in Patna was simple: most of the drains in the city were choked, and nobody bothered to clean them up before the monsoon set in. This should serve as an eye opener to the Bihar government about the need to revamp the civic drainage systems in Patna and other towns.

In Varanasi, heavy rains caused waterlogging in the city, and the Prime Minister who was in the US had to ring up the UP chief minister to take immediate steps to tackle waterlogging. Union minister Mahendra Nath Pandey was sent to Varanasi to oversee relief work. CM Yogi Adityanath visited Varanasi on Sunday.

Hundreds of crores of rupees were spent during the past five years to revamp Varanasi’s drainage system. There must be a probe to find out how the funds meant for drainage system revamp were spent.

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