Even if the administration remains apathetic or works really hard with city commissioner and Mayor reaching office at 3 AM for flood control, as citizens we love to find faults in its functioning, and there is no better season for it than monsoon to do it, as rains always bring water logging.
Under the din of “tantra khade gau”, “pahela varsad-ma tantra-ni re-monsoon kamgiri in pol khuli” and “halaki”, what gets lost is the nature of the problem of water logging.
Be it Ahmedabad or any other human habitat, it is always a topography in a state of flux.
New roads, new infrastructure and new buildings keep appearing and changing the contours of the land and hence how water will move on it, making water-logging a shape-shifting monster that will appear differently each season.
Unfortunately for the city administration, and in turn engineers asked to solve the water logging problem, it is a typical dynamic problem where one static solution will lead to creating another problem.
So, even if new drains are put in place, some external factor like a builder building flats in low laying area or water level of the river raising prevent them from draining the water out quickly enough before some aggrieved or political party will start claiming failure of the state.
At this point our city administration is fighting water logging with a combination of aggressive mobilisation of resources, a newly installed storm water drainage system and most importantly pumps that increase the speed of removal of water, but there is one more opportunity that is worth exploring, and that is reverse boring.
While our current strategy is draining most of the water into the surface river network, we are not realising that a far bigger and more accessible network exists right beneath our feet in terms of subterranean aquifers that we are utilising only partially by so-called discharge wells made mandatory in GDCR.
Discharge wells are constructed in every scheme, but it is clear that most of them are made purely for paper compliance and are not really doing the job. If they were really working, city would not be seeing so much of water logging each year.
What is worth exploring for the administration is to change this GDCR provision that results in half-baked and small recharge wells that are of no real use.
All municipal corporations should take making of recharge well out of the scope of private sector and, instead collect the same or more amount of money to build a robust large scale well-engineered city-wide network of recharge wells.
The use of aquifer network will come with multiple advantages as it will lift up the water table of the city making the same water easily accessible to the citizens. In addition to this, as recharge well construction is local, it will not lead to traffic chaos for years that drainage network installation does.
The first step to do this is to conduct micro-aquifer mapping study of the city that can even be funded under National Project on Aquifer Management (NAQUIM), an initiative of the Ministry of Water Resources.
At this point NAQUIM is focused on mapping aquifers for catering to demand in areas with water scarcity, but it is also worth using the same network for solving the water logging problem too.
As climate change is expected to change the rain pattern into intense short bursts and long dry spells, this is an idea worth exploring, because if it works, it will be a rare win-win solution as it will use one problem (of water logging) to solve another bigger problem (of water scarcity) looming ahead.