By Sidharth Mishra
About six years ago, an enthusiastic green activist from Ghaziabad, Vikrant Sharma had taken me to the banks of Hindon river near Mohun Nagar. He showed me how the government was changing the natural course of the river to reclaim some precious land to be allocated to builders for the development of residential areas. To a question on what was his objection to channelising a stream reduced to a “nullah” (drain), the passionate green warrior had replied that the worth of the “nullah” is known each time there is a heavy downpour.
He pointed to deluge in Mumbai in 2005 and said that it happened because the builders, politicians, and bureaucrats devoured Mithi river. On July 26 every year, people recall the mayhem caused by the floods which brought the metropolis to the standstill. Large numbers of people were stranded on the road, as they returned home from work that evening. Water logging on railroads halted Mumbai’s lifeline as local trains stopped operating. This caused a heavy rush on the roads, leading to vehicular logjam. Worse, the mobile services too collapsed.
A study carried out later showed that due to heavy downpour, Powai Lake had started overflowing and discharging water into the Mithi River. In normal course, the water should have got drained because of the prevalent low-tide. But that did not happen because the accumulated water from the first flood wave had yet not flushed out effectively during the ebb period because of a choked drainage system caused by the encroachment into the river.
When I read reports of Gurujam, the miserable traffic jam in Gurgaon following heavy downpour July 28 last, I somehow remembered the prophetic words of Vikrant, “the worth of the nullah is known each time there is a heavy downpour.”