Surely, being stuck in a rain-induced traffic jam for an hour wouldn’t have been quite the welcome US secretary of state John Kerry would have expected when he arrived in Delhi on Monday evening to attend the second Indo-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. If a state guest being caught in crawling traffic in the fancier parts of the national capital was embarrassing, the sheer magnitude of the misery suffered by the common man should be cause for deep concern for the government. After all, ambulances delayed by water-logging in the national capital’s streets—though Monday’s jam was also aggravated by VIP movement—don’t make for good optics for the government.
It is indeed a sad situation when civic bodies have to pump out water from arterial roads of the city as a firefighting measure. If a competent storm-water drain network to prevent pooling is the ideal, Delhi instead is putting up with an extended list of chokepoints—a report in The Times of India says 25 new chokepoints, apart from the 166 that existed previously, were identified and the respective civic authorities were sent multiple alerts regarding this. A 2015 study by the National Green Tribunal found that 44 of the city’s 201 natural storm-water drains that were mapped in 1976 had ‘disappeared’. While the Delhi government claimed that 38 of these had been ‘realigned’ by unchecked construction, it couldn’t find the remaining six. Meanwhile, many of the remaining natural storm-water drains—as also the 1,000-odd man-made ones—are also part of the city’s sewer network. It is high time that the governance apparatus—whether it is the Delhi’s multiple civic bodies or the Union government that controls parts of it—woke up to this.