Why Chandigarh, India's Best Planned City, Went under after Three Hours of Rain

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), August 22, 2017 | Go to article overview

Why Chandigarh, India's Best Planned City, Went under after Three Hours of Rain


India, Aug. 22 -- Natural mishaps have an uncanny way to expose all that is wrong with India's urban planning and infrastructure. Monday's unusually heavy rains, heaviest in 16 years, starkly did that reality check at an unlikeliest of places: Chandigarh, the country's first and, arguably the most, well-planned city since Independence.

A 115-mm downpour in just three hours morphed the much-acclaimed 'City Beautiful' into an ugly chaos that its denizens had scarcely ever imagined.

In no time, the swirling, muddy waters turned wide, leafy avenues into pools, choked main arteries and well-manicured roundabouts and swamped the upscale sectors. The peak-hour Monsoon misery wreaked the worst traffic gridlocks that Le Corbusier's designer city had not seen in its living memory.

If alive today, the French genius would have been aghast to see the flood-like emergency in his famed masterpiece and co-capital of Punjab and Haryana. The rain-induced mess in the Union Territory was no less worse in its immediate neighbours - Mohali and Panchkula, the satellite towns built on the same grid as Chandigarh as showpiece counter-magnets by two states respectively.

The Monsoon mess glaringly laid bare the shortcomings in futuristic planning and upgrade of the tricity's drainage system that was put in place for a much-smaller population base years ago. Chandigarh's natural storm water channel, the Northern Choe, for instance, hasn't been cleaned up for last two decades.

In Mohali, on a lower gradient than Chandigarh, a project to replace the inadequate storm water pipes with ones with more carrying capacity has been a hanging fire for five years.

A pre-monsoon audit, extensively reported by Hindustan Times in June, had revealed major gaps and missed deadlines even in such basic annual preparedness as cleaning up of the road gullies. …

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