Two countries, separated by 1000s of miles, but with one similar message; construction and development in floodways and floodplains cannot continue.
In Delhi yesterday, a report from a committee formed by the ministry of environment and forests, heavily criticised the “rampant construction taking place on the Yamuna floodplains”.
The Yamuna River runs through India’s densely populated capital. The report goes on:
“Delhi has grown phenomenally at the expense of the Yamuna. Since 1947, the river has been highly altered. Construction has eaten into most of the floodplains. Practically, most of east Delhi and Noida are located on the floodplains,”
The report recommended that all construction on the floodplains must be stopped if the city is to avert a large scale flood crisis. Heavy rainfall, as regularly experienced in Delhi during the monsoon season, may result in massive flooding because of the highly restricted floodway.
“There is an urgent need to conserve whatever floodway is left….The river…can destroy urban settlements if it is not allowed its natural course”.
The report also showed concern over the highly sedimented river bed of the Yamuna, mostly as a result of raw sewage discharge. Most of the 20 or so major drains that were initially built to carry storm run-off, are in fact used to carry raw sewage to the river.
The committee has members from IIT-Delhi, JNU and University of Delhi. “The riverbed is highly sedimented due to discharge of raw sewage. Apart from three major drains, there are 18/19 others that discharge sewage into the Yamuna. Most of these drains were supposed to carry storm run-off and not sewage,” the interim report says.
Also in Delhi, police and authorities have been making attempts to clean up areas along the Yamuna river that are cloggged with tonnes of debris. The city authorities have been trying to clean up as much as 4,000 tonnes of debris but have found it difficult since the areas have since been occupied by “jhuggi” dwellers, who have built their own makeshift homes there.
Meanwhile in Canada yesterday, Alison Redford the Premier of Alberta, made the first attempts to change legislature following the disastrous flooding in southern Alberta in June this year. Redford announced the introduction new legislation restricting further development in flood zones in the Canadian state. It is hard to say whether the restrictions go far enough. For example, redevelopment will be allowed if it is the replacement of a similar structure
But it a step in the right direction and an acknowledgement at least of the problems casued by construction and development in floodplains and flood zones. Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said that “the June disaster shows us that we must change how we develop in flood-risk areas.”