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Dealing With Possible Flood in Panaji

The recent floods in Chennai owing to excessive rain can be the ill fate of any city. It happened in Mumbai in 2005 and in Canacona in 2009. The flooding of Canacona exposed the lack of unpreparedness of the state machinery for such calamities. Scientists point out that intense rainfall in a particular city is going to become more and more common as a result of global warming. Inquiries with experts on the vulnerability of Panaji owing to sudden, heavy rainfall have suggested that the capital city of Goa is not secured from such a calamity. TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) which carried out a yearlong case study of Panaji has found that several parts of the city were prone to flooding. It has suggested various means to deal with a flood-like situation which could happen in case there is continuous rainfall lasting few hours. The study has identified vulnerable spots and critical infrastructure on spatial scale and a Database Management System (DBMS) to support the city government to address the impacts of sea-level rise in its planning strategies. The study also recommended a starting point to initiate climate resilience planning and retrofitting of infrastructure assets and services. These, however, would need further detailed studies and expert consultation would be required to appropriate actions, those who carried out study have stated and it would be in the interest of the state and its people that authorities should take appropriate action.
The problems in Panaji as well as other developed areas of the state have arisen due to indiscriminate changes in land use and land reclamation. Besides, due to fast developmental activities following demand for accommodation due to increase in state population in the state over the past few decades natural drains that existed for centuries have been blocked contributing to flooding: man-made drainage systems have not been able to drain rain waters leading to accumulation of water in low-lying areas. All the natural outlets as well as those constructed by the Public Works Department have vanished thanks to rampant, unbridled “over development” that has taken place in the city over the last three decades or more. While some of the drains have been encroached upon by the builders others have been buried by road widening by the government authorities. The problems are compounded as the drains that exist are not regularly cleared of the silt that gathers thereby blocking the flow of rain water.
The city has some eco-sensitive areas such as creeks, sand dunes and mangroves which are natural assets that can help lessen the impact of sudden floods; they need to be protected as they help absorb large volumes of water. Constructions along the creeks and damages to sand dunes and mangroves have made the situation worse. An action plan has to be drawn to preserve them before it is too late. We must learn from other parts of the world where authorities have taken proactive measures to not only protect natural assets but also prevent flooding. Tiny Singapore is one of the remarkable countries whose authorities realized that man-made drains were not adequate to deal with natural flow of water, especially during heavy rains; they destroyed all the modern drains and restored the natural drains that existed. The authorities could ponder on similar lines and come out with some tangible solution that could be closest to the natural way.
The state authorities are in the habit of claiming that they were prepared for any emergency that may occur due to incessant rains and that adequate disaster management plans were ready to deal with calamities, but such claims are not convincing in the light of poor learning from the lessons of 2009 Canacona. State officials have no hands-on experience as such a disaster has not hit the state since 2009; their strategy and efficiency in executing disaster management plans which are on paper have not been tested. Besides, the coordination among the officials of various departments, like WRD, PWD, collectorates and fire services is yet to be tried in a real calamity. God alone knows what could be in store for people if a sudden heavy rainfall causes floods. Though much progress has been made in the field of science, experts have been found wanting in many cases in announcing with precision the intensity of such a calamity. The unpredictability of Nature makes it all the more necessary for the state government to be fully ready to deal with such a calamity any day so as to prevent loss of life and property. At the same time, the government must take corrective steps to prevent any further damage to natural drainage – or to put it better, to re-create the natural drainage like Singapore.

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