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The recent thunderstorms in Bengaluru led to severe flooding in several parts of the city, causing substantial loss of property, traumatic disruption, and even loss of lives. Even Bangalore International Centre, the site of this discussion, has had its operations suspended twice by the basement getting flooded due to failures in the drainage system of the neighbourhood.
The usual excuse trotted out was that the rain was “unprecedented,” but it is clear we need to think beyond this framework. Storms of unprecedented intensity are more likely in an era of global climate change. Moreover, the intensity of the recent rain does not fall beyond parameters that should be considered while engineering a storm water drainage system for a city.
Responding to the floods, media coverage and statements by urban activists have spoken about the usual culprits: corruption, building on lake beds, encroachments onto drains, wilful flouting of the master plan, etc. A litany of past failures or an abstract delineation of villains will not help us. The planning system we need so we can live without our lives being upturned by storms is not rocket science: it is established, explicit, and clear, and has been so for a long time. We need a clear public consciousness on what needs to be done, the institutional architecture to implement it, and the standards of transparency and accountability through which public sentiment can shape political will on this issue.
This discussion will seek to define the outline of such a consciousness so that it can be documented and placed in the public domain.
Nirmala Gowda is a Computer Science Engineer by education and profession. She last worked for Novartis in the US. Intending to learn and understand environmental issues, she obtained an M.Sc in Environmental Management from the University of San Francisco. Nirmala is a co-founders at Paani.earth.
After spending more than a decade in the US, she returned to her homeland Bengaluru, intending to work on environmental issues. She loves to hike and has dedicated her time to working on River Pollution, River rights, and Justice issues in the Cauvery basin as trustee of Bangalore Environment Trust. Over the past few years, she has authored several articles and reports: My mother is the river. The river is my mother., Bellandur Lake reports, and Brewing Farmer Crisis in the Byramangala Tank Region.
Vishwanath Srikantaiah is an expert on water conservation and a Bangalore resident. A Civil Engineer and Urban Planner by qualification, Vishwanath worked with Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) for 14 years before dedicating himself full-time to solving water issues facing urban and rural communities. He is a Trustee at Biome Environmental Trust, an organisation assisting communities in water and sanitation solutions; Popularly known as Zenrainman on social media channels, his insightful articles on water and environmental issues frequently appear in mainstream news publications.
Leo F. Saldanha is full-time Coordinator and also Trustee of Environmental Support Group (ESG). He has gained wide-ranging experience in the areas of Environmental Law and Policy, Decentralisation, Urban Planning and a variety of Human Rights and Development related issues, working across many sectors for over a decade. He is a keen campaigner on critical environmental and social justice issues and has guided several campaigns demanding evolution of progressive laws and effective action.
He assists various Government agencies in evolving law and policy relating to environmental justice. In recognition of his contribution to environmental and social justice efforts, Association for India’s Development, USA, made him their first AID Saathi.
Meera K is the co-founder of Citizen Matters, the award-winning civic media platform. She also helped initiate Open City, an urban data platform (opencity.in). Meera is an Ashoka Fellow, recognised for her work building open knowledge platforms that allow citizens to collaborate and improve their cities.