Evacuation, traffic jams, no electricity: Bangalores blame poor urban planning for flooding

Contractors, IT workers and activists have urged the state government to step in with immediate action to reduce flooding as the city prepares for more rains in the coming days. They also called on the government to take a holistic approach to urban planning in the city to prepare for flash floods in the future.

Several IT employees and founders have taken to social media to tell their ordeal after heavy rains hit the city causing massive waterlogging and submerged roads.

“Left for the office today which is 7 km away. 3h drive, traveled 500m and back home now. What do we call this livable city by any standard? Absolutely no infra in the city. Another town! Jitendra Gupta, founder and CEO of Jupiter, tweeted on Monday.

Mohit Saxena, co-founder and former CTO of InMobi, said he missed his flight even after leaving four hours early. “Whenever I fall in love with #Bangalore, its #traffic breaks my heart. Everything collapsed in this rainy season, absolutely no hope. Even 4 hours is not enough to travel 31 KM. Completely disappointed for a city which has so much potential but its #infrastructure is lacking.

Ishaan Mittal, managing director of Sequoia Capital India, tweeted that his family along with 300 other families had to review their company. “It’s horrible to find out the (hopefully) bottom of Bangalore’s infrastructure. Today we had to evacuate our flat with 300 other families. The company (in Yemlur) has no electricity or water. 2 basements are full of water with many cars stuck in them.

Unacademy co-founder and CEO Gaurav Munjal’s family and pet were evacuated on a tractor as the society he lives in was overwhelmed.

“I’ve been under so much stress thinking about how to get my family out of the flood situation safely. We have had to cancel a few key meetings scheduled for this week and many of our employees are also dealing with this. How to start businesses if you have to struggle with traffic and infrastructure problems every day, and now the rains are making it worse. We hope the authorities will take notice and make this city a better place for everyone,” said a unicorn founder.

Speaking to Rahul Kanwal on India Today’s flagship primetime program Newstrack, TV Ramachandra, an associate member of the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, blamed the situation on the unplanned urbanization of the city and said the government should wake up to climate change as the frequency of high rainfall intensity is expected to increase.

“When you look at the situation in Bangalore, I would say the blame should be on unplanned urbanisation. Over the past 2.5 to 3 decades, Bangalore has come to fruition. There is no place for the water to recede. The topography of Bangalore is hilly terrain. In the 1800s we had 1452 bodies of water. Today we only have 193 water bodies. We had an interconnected lake ecosystem. But today, the connectivity between the lakes is lost. The city is about 740 km², we had 68% green coverage in 1973, today 85% of our landscape is covered with concrete. When you suffocate the region with so much concreteness, in the name of development, we put our people in distress. Wherever we removed the lakes, we see that they are flood hotspots,” Ramachandra said.

Arjun Mohan, CEO of edtech unicorn upGrad, said that there is a lot of construction going on in the flooded areas currently, which has slowed down for multiple reasons lately and as a result the pathways allowing water to go into nearby lakes got clogged and that caused flooding.

“I live near the currently submerged area i.e. Bellandur Outer Ring Road, Sarjapur Road, Whitefield. This part of the region has many IT companies and start-ups. The floods were quite strong, there was no electricity, the apartment complexes were flooded. We have all entered a world where working from home is possible, but when something like this happens, even working from home is not possible because there is no electricity or internet.

The Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) estimated that the companies it represents suffered a loss of Rs 225 crore when resurfacing the area on August 30. The association, in a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, said the city’s poor infrastructure is affecting productivity and causing safety issues for employees.

“It is estimated that over half a million professionals are employed along the Outer Ring Road (ORR) between the Central Silk Board and the KR Puram Corridor and with various support services and indirect jobs, this corridor which measures around 17 km provides jobs for nearly one million people,” the letter read.

“ORR IT generates revenue of $22 billion a year (32% of Bangalore’s revenue) and is the biggest tax contributor, but the lack of focus on infrastructure development in this corridor is appalling…a Poor infrastructure on this corridor, however, reduces business efficiency and productivity and endangers the safety and well-being of employees,” he added.

Meena Girisaballa, CEO of PurpleFront Technologies, who lives in the Yemalur-Marathahalli region, said the blame should be on the city’s civic body – the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) – which has failed to maintain the lakes.

“It was awful. We never thought it would come to this. I live in the Yemalur-Marathahalli region which is surrounded by three lakes – Doddanekundi Lake, Varthur Lake and Bellandur Lake. I think the civic responsibility to maintain these lakes has just been really poor. If they (BBMP) could spend time cleaning these lakes, weeding them and building the bunds, we wouldn’t have this problem at all in the city. I wouldn’t blame the infrastructure, the infrastructure has to happen, the rains were like this last year as well. BBMP needs to take responsibility and maintain these lakes and improve infrastructure,” she said.

As the city braces for more rain in the coming days, several start-ups, including Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato and upGrad, have advised their employees to work from home.

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