Delhi in deep waters

A CAG report shows how agencies dealing with flood control and drainage system in the national capital failed to do their job

s-krishnan

S Krishnan | October 4, 2016


#Delhi   #Floods   #CAG Report   #CAG   #Delhi Jal Board  

(GN Photo)

The waterlogged roads and huge traffic jams witnessed in Delhi in August hogged the headlines in the media, with the high court judges hitting out at the Delhi government. Even the US secretary of state, John Kerry, joked about the situation in his address at IIT Delhi the same month, by asking the audience whether they had all come by boat.

The comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) conducted a performance audit to analyse the roles of various agencies concerned with the management of flood control and drainage system in Delhi, as a sequel to the heavy waterlogging in Delhi during the 2013 monsoon that had caused heavy traffic congestion and consequent hardship to the public. The CAG’s Report No. 2 of 2014 in this connection was submitted to the Lt. Governor of Delhi on August 1, 2014 for being placed before parliament.

The key findings of the report reveal the extent of mismanagement that resulted in the 2013 chaos and could still be a reason for the August mess.

As per CAG, in Delhi the threat of floods is posed mainly by two rivers – the Yamuna and the Sahibi passing through the Najafgarh drain. The Yamuna enters Delhi’s territory at village Palla and leaves at village Jaitpur after travelling 48 kilometres. “The water level and current in the Yamuna is influenced by release of water from Hathni Kund barrage in Haryana. At times, especially in monsoons, the surplus water released from this barrage raises the water level in the river and causes the back-flow effect in the city’s drains,” said the report.

It observed that the storm water drainage system in Delhi comprises Najafgarh, Kanjhawala, Alipur, Shahdara and Mehrauli drainage basins, large natural drains, storm drains and even combined sewer-cum-storm water drains in some areas. “The drainage network of Delhi is designed to collect all water through main drains, link drains and small rivulets, which finally discharge into the Yamuna. The existing drainage system in Delhi, based on the ‘Master Plan of Drainage’ finalised way back in 1981, has become outdated to face the increased pressure of rapid urbanisation of the city,” CAG noted. 

‘Drainage and Embankments’ is a subject of the state list, and thus the Delhi government is responsible for the national capital’s flood control and drainage system, managed by multiple agencies including irrigation and flood control department (IFCD), public works department (PWD), municipal corporations of Delhi, New Delhi municipal council (NDMC) and Delhi jal board (DJB).  

Key audit findings:

  • There was no separate budget or head of account exclusively for activities related to flood control and drainage system.
     
  • The existing drainage network of Delhi (Master Plan of Drainage 1981) was required to be reviewed and integrated with the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) 2001. But the government took five years to appoint a committee for improvement of drainage system in line with the draft MPD 2021, and another seven years in appointing a consultant for preparation of an action plan. Moreover, IFCD could not furnish essential data, as it was not available with the Delhi State Spatial Data Infra Structure Project (DSSDI), to the consultant for the purpose of the study. 
     
  • One of the many reasons for reduced discharge capacity of storm drains was mixing of sewerage with storm water in many internal contributory drains, as only 54 percent of the Delhi population is connected to the sewerage network. The DJB assigned plan for sewerage, to ABSCOM and WAPCOS in April 2010, was to be completed within 36 months, that is, by April 2013. However, the first draft report submitted by the firms was yet to be approved by DJB and the government. Thus, even after a lapse of more than a decade and a half since DJB’s constitution (April 6, 1998), Delhi was yet to have a dedicated master plan on sewage rehabilitation. 
     
  • There has been rapid urbanisation and non-assessment of impact of unauthorised colonies on the overall drainage system. The linking of drains of unauthorised colonies to the storm water drains without ensuring proper outfall points further compounded the problem.
     
  • As per the guidelines of the central water commission, the planning of embankments, bank revetment, drainage and channel improvement works include gathering of topographical, hydrological and meteorological data, history of past floods, erosion of banks and drainage congestion. It was, however, observed that the departments were not in possession of such data required for planning.
     
  • As per Operation Mission constituted in May 1995, de-silting of storm drains and sewers was to be completed before the advent of the monsoon. However, it was found that the pre-monsoon preparedness of agencies for preventing drainage and sewerage congestion and waterlogging did not meet the standards set by the mission.
     
  • In order to maintain free flow of water or discharge in drains, it is essential to remove silt and various other obstructions from the drains regularly and dispose them of promptly. Failure to do so compounds drainage congestion. A test check in this regard showed that
     
  • Out of 8.29 lakh cubic metre silt excavated at different locations of Najafgarh Drain and Trunk Drain-1 by IFCD at a cost of Rs 7.34 crore, only 0.98 lakh cubic metre was removed, leaving the remaining by the side of drains.
     
  • The PWD’s status report of de-silting of drains as on September 10, 2013 showed that silt/malba had not been removed from 80.077 km length of roadside drains and only partly removed from 157.688 km while no information was available with the PWD for 40.78 km of roadside drains.
     
  • Operation Mission, constituted by the urban development department (UDD), envisaged identification of vulnerable waterlogging points. However, IFCD and PWD did not have a proper mechanism to conduct surveys and identify vulnerable locations.
     
  • No preventive or routine maintenance of sewerage was being conducted by DJB. In five out of eight selected divisions, the repair works on overflow of manholes and sewer line, replacement of settled sewer line, raising and repairing of damaged sewer line and manholes were carried out on the request of MLAs or complaints of residents. Out of 26 cases test-checked in this regard, 15 works were not completed before monsoon, as DJB took 49 to 335 days to award these works.
     
  • As per flood control orders, water level of 204.83 metres in Yamuna at the Old Railway Bridge is considered the danger mark. Moreover, when it touches 206.04 m, the effect of flood is visible in the form of back-flow in the Najafgarh drain. The river breached the danger mark by 1.17 m, 0.5 m and 2.28 m during the monsoons of 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively while IFCD did not initiate any new work relating to flood control activity, from July 16, 2008 to May 9, 2011.
     
  • In order to assess the adequacy of remedial action taken by the concerned agencies, occurrences of waterlogging at various locations was examined based on the test-check of traffic police/media reports and record of the departments, related to the monsoons of 2012 and 2013. It was found that in as many as seven prominent locations in Delhi, the situation continued to be the same year after year.
     
  • Scrutiny of the daily rain report of the Indian meteorological Department showed that even on days on which intensity of rainfall was only moderate and the water level in Yamuna remained below the danger level, waterlogging was reported at various locations by the traffic police.
     
  • Based on test-checks, eight specific cases of deficiency in management of works by the various agencies were also listed by the auditor. 

CAG deserves to be complimented for such an in-depth audit of the flood control and drainage system in Delhi. It is hoped that the report will be taken seriously by all concerned.

The devastating effect caused by neglecting basic civic facility of a good drainage system in Delhi has not only led to thousands of families being exposed to dengue and chikungunya, but also to economic hardship particularly for the weaker sections of society, due to loss of wages.

The discussions on the onset of dengue and chikungunya so far have been more of making it a political issue rather than focussing on the root causes and how to overcome them. Can the citizens of Delhi hope that remedial action will be taken on war-footing to prevent a recurrence before the next monsoon, which is now less than a year away?

Krishnan, IAAS (retired), served as additional secretary, ministry of finance.

(The column appears in the October 1-15, 2016 issue)

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