The area where I live in Gurgaon was carved out as a defense sector in 1978 under the patronage of the visionary Chief Minister, the late Banshi Lal. At that time, Gurgaon was known as just a Gaon. Although close to the national capital, it was poorly connected by two single-lane roads that ran through the village. Applicants consist mainly of junior defense ranks. The fact that five members of our own military families applied and all were allotted plots suggests there was no rush of demand.
Even when I was building my house in 2002, long after the Delhi-Jaipur highway came up, sales agents could be seen sitting at roadside kiosks hawking their residential properties. The weather was hot and dry. Gurgaon was actually considered to be the border of the desert which extended west towards Rajasthan. Water scarcity was a perennial problem. During the summer months, we often had to buy water through tanker deliveries. No wonder the Haryana Urban Development Authority has not included drainage in its plans. Following the natural slope, rainwater flows freely over the open road.
Average rainfall may still be deficient, but rain, when it comes, does so with full fury. On September 23 it rained all day. It actually rained a day ago. According to district administration data, Gurgaon received 55 mm of rain in 12 hours, though only 25 mm of rain was recorded till September 22.
The North-South Jaipur National Highway bisects Gurgaon. We, in the west, live in Old Gurgaon. Multinational companies have sprung up in New Gurgaon, where the skyline is dotted with skyscrapers. The rain made no difference between the old and the new. Almost every road is blocked due to unexpected heavy rains. Rows of vehicles can be seen all around. Passengers were stranded at various important places. Even the highly sought-after pincode area of Golf Course Road is not spared.
I had to drop a family member at Palam airport. Traffic was normal in both directions even though it was still raining. The bend in the road felt like a deep pool while turning left to take a U-turn at an underpass near the Signature Tower on the way back. As my driver hesitated, a taxi — also an Innova — crawled past, hugging the right berm. This waterlogged patch is definitely a design flaw.
Waterlogging also occurred in several areas and pumps had to be installed. Pump is an emergency measure. They may not be a substitute for poor or defective drains. Fortunately, all underpasses were flood-free, a distinct improvement over previous years. The semicircular design of the overhead canopy sheds rainwater.
Police were busy, struggling to keep traffic flowing and help recover stranded vehicles. Although their efforts were not lacking and deserve praise, their success in restoring order to the streets was partial.
Rain disasters are not new in Gurgaon. It happens practically every monsoon. The authorities are certainly learning from experience but have little regard for the efforts of an impatient tax-paying public; They want results. Faulty design is one aspect, quality of work is another. For example, in the case of Suncity, a newly constructed drain was reportedly damaged after the first spell of rain.
Ultimately, the helpless city administration had no choice but to advise residents to stay indoors. All educational institutions were closed on Friday, corporate offices and private institutions were advised to allow work from home. Extended repair work will certainly close certain roads and increase public suffering. Considering the vastly improved technology and construction materials available, the damage to roads caused by frequent rains is both surprising and disappointing.
The Millennium City is and will remain an important investment destination. It is a reflection of an emerging India. With global climate change, such rain disasters can only be predicted. The authorities need to tackle the problem proactively and on a long-term future basis. Infrastructure development cannot be left to the ‘lowest bidder’.