Climate change isn’t just real you can see its effects in your own housing complex. As the rains lash Mumbai, it’s hard to ignore how the monsoon has changed. Instead of showers distributed across three or four months, we now have week-long bursts of downpour. And the city is simply not equipped to deal with such volumes of water.
Flooding occurs in neighbourhoods that never faced the problem before. As cars bob about in waterlogged parking lots and compound walls disintegrate, private townships are experimenting with flood-control mechanisms and hiring a growing tribe of experts to keep the worst effects of the monsoon at bay.
The challenges are considerable. All projects ultimately are part of the city’s infrastructure, its drainage systems, electricity grids and roadways. “New, upcoming townships are typically designed or planned in isolation and don’t completely factor in the lack of infrastructure,” says Deben Moza, executive director for project management services at Knight Frank India. “We need better maintenance systems all around.”
The best practices are those that work with existing systems to manage monsoon woes. In Chennai, Mahindra World City by Mahindra Lifespaces says they typically study local catchment areas and flooding levels. Using contour maps, they determine the depths of waterbodies and land levels. “Percolation pits are then planned accordingly, so that floodwater can be directed there if necessary,” says head of projects Deepak Suvarna.
In Nagpur, Radha Madhav Developers’ 111-acre township Vrindavan has 40 pumps on standby. “An issue then is maintenance of the pumps, because you may only use them a couple of times a year and we have to ensure they will all be in working order when needed,” says chief executive officer Hardik Agrawal.
Bengaluru’s Radiance Realty also keeps submersible pumps on site, and has collection tanks in its basements.
Even as legislation has restricted the construction of buildings near flood plains, development pressures have led to mass urbanisation infiltrating sensitive areas. It is no longer uncommon to see massive townships built near water bodies, says Santhosh Kumar, vice chairman at Anarock Property Consultants. “This has led to the need for technological innovations that focus on minimising the impact of flooding.”
What is really needed, adds Ramesh Nair, chief executive officer and country head at realty research firm JLL India, is a crackdown on unorganised builders who continue to flout structural safety norms.