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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Edition 26; The Monsoon Troubleshooting

Puneites can have a special relation with the rain gods. On the one hand, it is the only time they can see the two rivers flowing from the middle of the city full of water. The rains normally do not lashes out at the city. It only adds a certain wet beauty to the old and new roads, structures as well as lanes.

However, the same rain gives them a goose bump as any Puneite familiar with the city know what exactly four months of water filled days and nights mean. It means potholes large enough to gulp down a walking man, it means tarred roads with oil on it making it a slippery ground for vehicles…it means getting late to office because of constant jams, it means regular power failure and what not…

The monsoon this year arrived in the city three day later than usual. The onset of the monsoon in Pune was declared by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) after the 12 mm rainfall that the city witnessed for 45 minutes early on Friday. Even before that, the pre-monsoon showers accompanied by the heavy winds literally took city by the storm. Rain-induced power failures pushed the citizens into darkness for two consecutive days Monday and Tuesday. This even when the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) claims that it has completed most of its pre-monsoon maintenance works and claimed to be ready to tackle the eventualities.

On its part, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is getting its act together to face the monsoon. The municipal commissioner Mahesh Zagade called a meeting of all PMC heads of departments, zonal commissioners, ward officers and heads of irrigation department, traffic police, PMPML, MSEDCL and Fire Brigade among others on Wednesday.

To handle emergencies during the monsoon, the PMC has two cells, one at the corporation building reception and the other at the Katraj Lake, which will operate 24 hours starting from June 1 till October.

During the pre-monsoon showers, a survey is done to identify the areas and roads that are getting water-logged. Low-lying areas and slums will be reviewed as the people here have to be evacuated in case of the river water level rising above the safe line when water is released from the Khadakwasla dam. A list of schools is prepared where people can be rehabilitated.

The garden department, MSEDCL and the traffic police will together work to identify trees that need to be trimmed to prevent them from falling during the monsoon. Other plans are taking precautions to prevent epidemics, issuing notices to people living in old buildings that may collapse and preparation of an inventory of NGOs.

Eventually, these are not the only problems. Already, the H1N1 scare, which plagued city and country for most of the later part of the year in 2009, resurfaced its ugly head as three people were reportedly succumbed to it in Mumbai while one death is recorded in Pune. Mumbai has also confirmed 15 positive cases and Pune has confirmed 16 so far. Last week, 30 new cases were reported across the country. Experts say the surge is because of higher levels of humidity.

Pune being in the low lying area surrounded by hilly terrains, it is prone to the problem of water logging. Water coming from Khadakwasla during rainy season brings with it all type of filth and garbage exposing the residents along the river to various diseases. The cleaning of drainage lines is a task which should be done is earnest. As many as 39 slum pockets, located near the Mula-Mutha river sides, and the various nullahs in the city have been identified by the PMC, as these are the most vulnerable locations if more than 45,000 cusecs of water per second is released from the Khadakwasla dam.

Some of the areas that are affected every year are Patil Estate slums, Kamgaar Putla slums, Pulachi Wadi slums, Shivne, Katraj lake area, Aundh old bridge area and the slums near the Harris bridge in Bopodi.

We are not giving a pessimistic dose of the perils of the monsoon which is, in fact, a boon for us Indians. There will be hardly anybody who does not like the chattering of the rain drops on window panes. This is a season to enjoy the ambience and indulging oneself. The only thing is that the enjoyment should not find itself mired in the problems. That is least we can do.

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