Delhi Rains: Claims of preparedness bite dust as Capital buckles under torrential rain

- July 5, 2024
| By : Saurav Gupta |

The civic agencies had announced flood preparations for this year on a grand scale following last year’s flooding of the city; however, their work has turned out to be insufficient

Delhi rains: Even though monsoon has brought relief to the residents of the national capital, its after-effects like waterlogging has led to jam-packed streets and collapsing structures, which have claimed 11 lives.

The tall claims made by multiple agencies — Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Irrigation and Flood Control Department (I&FC Dept), Public Works Department (PWD) regarding the flood preparedness bite the dust as the monsoon’s first showers submerged Delhi bringing it to a standstill.

The residence of PWD minister Atishi was also flooded on June 28 due to the rainfall.

The worst affected areas by the floods last year — ITO, Mathura Road, Pragati Maidan and Ring Road between Shanti Van and Kashmere Gate —witnessed heavy flooding till late evening on June 28, which clearly indicated a lack of effective measures to prevent the recurrence of inundation.

Also read: Delhi Building Collapses: Experts cite use of sub-par material, MCD guideline violations

Speaking to Patriot, a senior PWD official informed that water was cleared from most of the areas quickly, while only a few areas remained waterlogged for more than five hours.

“The field unit reported a total of 129 deluged locations in the city. Of these, 35 were resolved within 30 minutes, 29 in about an hour, and 25 in two hours. However, water logging persisted for up to five hours at 35 locations, and at five locations, it lasted beyond five hours,” he said.

The VIP Lutyens’ zone, overseen by NDMC, faced substantial water logging. Social media videos depicted ministers and MPs struggling to reach Parliament. Officials blamed the severe flooding in central and south Delhi on the back flow from the Barapullah drain.

Affected areas included Defence Colony, Vasant Kunj, Jangpura, New Delhi Railway Station, IGI Airport Terminal 1, Dwarka Sector 23, Vir Banda Bairagi Marg, Inderlok, Old Rohtak Road, and the Zakhira underpass.

“Our management was adequate, but due to inadequate desilting of MCD drains, water flowed back into NDMC areas. However, quick response teams addressed most complaints promptly,” an NDMC official told Patriot.

Drains managed by agenciesTotal
Public Works Department (PWD)2,064 kms
Delhi Development Authority (DDA)382 kms
New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC)471 kms
Municipal Corporation of Dehi (MCD)713 drains
Note: Delhi has a total of 3,740 kms of drains which are more than four feet in depth.


Desilting incomplete, deadlines missed

Delhi has a total of 3,740 kms of drains which are more than four feet in depth and managed by PWD, NDMC, and DDA.

Eighty-five per cent of the desilting work has been completed and the cleaning of others is ongoing. It will be completed soon, said a PWD official.

Notably, PWD manages a total 2,064 kms of drains.

The NDMC official said, “The work to desilt the drains is ongoing.”

The municipal council manages 471 kms of drains in the city.

A DDA official also stated the same saying that the work is ongoing and will soon be completed. It manages 382 kms of drains.

MCD, on the other hand, missed the June 15 deadline to complete the desilting of drains which comes under its jurisdiction.

According to a senior official, only 35% of the total 713 drains, which are less than 4 feet in depth, were desilted.

Reasons behind waterlogging in Delhi
Excessive rainfall in a very short span
South Delhi and central Delhi are affected as the Barapullah drain is flowing at a very high level
Water in low-lying areas is collected as there is no way for it to escape
Malfunctioning of Pumps
Backflow of many storm water and smaller drains despite desilting
Overflow of several DJB sewer lines
Pending desilting of drains
Underground sumps overwhelmed

Medical services crippled

Heavy rainfall disrupted medical facilities across the city, causing numerous surgeries to be postponed at both All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Lok Nayak Hospital, city’s two biggest hospitals.

Waterlogging in the basements of AIIMS’ trauma centre and Cardiothoracic Neurosciences Centre (CNC), where electric panels are situated, led to the cancellation of at least 50% of surgeries.

The flooding also affected parking areas and AIIMS’ National Centre for Ageing (NCA), with rain water seeping into the CT scan room.

Traffic in the tunnel connecting the trauma centre to the main building was disrupted, necessitating patient transport via the main road. The trauma centre cancelled over 12 routine surgeries due to moisture near electric panels, posing a risk of electric shock. The situation was exacerbated by malfunctioning water pumps, further hindering the removal of excess water.

No cloudburst

The torrential rain that hit Delhi last week was not caused by a cloudburst. On June 28, as per India Meteorological Department (IMD), the Safdarjung Observatory recorded 91 mm of rain between 5 am and 6 am.

IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra explained that the intense rainfall resulted from multiple large-scale monsoonal weather systems that created conditions for mesoscale convective activity over Delhi NCR, leading to severe thunderstorms and heavy rain.

The Lodhi Road weather station also recorded significant rainfall, with 64 mm from 5 am to 6 am and 89 mm from 6 am to 7 am. Mohapatra noted that while these amounts were close to cloudburst levels, they did not officially qualify as such. The IMD had previously explained that the extreme weather was due to thermodynamic instability in the atmosphere, which is favourable for thunderstorms.

Highest rainfall in 88 years

 In the 24 hours leading up to 8:30 am on Friday, the Safdarjung Observatory recorded 228.1 mm of rainfall, which is more than three times the average rainfall for June (74.1 mm) and the highest for the month since 1936. The IMD classifies very heavy rain as rainfall ranging from 124.5 mm to 244.4 mm in a single day.

Traffic jams and congestion

As waterlogging affected several parts of Delhi, the traffic police highlighted that they faced congestion in 376 places, a much higher number than previous year, according to them.

Waterlogging at the Okhla underpass caused congestion along both sides of the road, impacting Nehru Place, Chittaranjan Park, Sarita Vihar and Jasola Vihar. A similar sight was seen at the Dhaula Kuan flyover which affected roads from Naraina and Moti Bagh, including Chanakyapuri, South Campus, and Delhi Cantonment.

The rains also marked the first time the Minto Bridge was submerged in the first showers as it affected roads towards Kamla Market, Connaught Place, ITO and New Delhi Railway Station. A similar scenario prevailed under the Tilak Bridge intersection leading to roads being affected towards Indraprastha Marg, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and Vikas Marg.

Other areas affected were Aurobindo Marg, owing to water logging under the AIIMS flyover, Outer Ring Road, owing to water logging near Salimgarh Fort and Nigambodh Ghat, Azad Market underpass, Tughlaqabad Metro Station, Murga Mandi in Ghazipur, and Nizamuddin Bridge.

Expert speaks

A former IAS officer, who worked closely with the Rural Development Department, Jail authorities, Transport Department and L-G office, on the condition of anonymity told Patriot, “Delhi, as the capital of India under the NCT of Delhi Act 1991, holds special status despite technically being a union territory. It houses Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament, numerous embassies, the Supreme Court, High Court, District Courts, Vidhan Sabha, Delhi Secretariat, and the office and residence of the L-G, central ministers, MPs, state ministers, MLAs, and municipal corporators. With a sizable and fluctuating population, Delhi accommodates major infrastructure such as air ports, railway stations, and metro systems. 

“Disaster preparedness is managed through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and district management authorities, with comprehensive plans and mock drills conducted regularly. Before the rainy season, flood control meetings review and update strategies to ensure preparedness. Given the unprecedented heavy rainfall, there is a crucial need to incorporate this factor into future planning and conduct mock drills accordingly.”

Environmentalists’ take

Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator at South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) said, “In Delhi, on June 28, 228 mm of rainfall occurred in one location – Safdarjung observatory, while in other parts of Delhi, it was below 200 mm, with some areas experiencing rainfall in single digits also. The overall average rainfall in Delhi was 139 mm.

“Some locations broke rainfall records, but not the entire city. Across India, there is a deficit in rainfall, although some areas have recorded high rainfall. Climate change is a significant factor contributing to changes in the monsoon, increasing the frequency and intensity of high-intensity events,” he added.

“This shift is influenced by climate change which leads to change in the pressure at some areas and wind patterns. The forecast indicates that rainfall will increase in August and September due to the La Niña weather pattern, which is expected to intensify rainfall in the city,” Thakkar further added.

People succumb to torrential rainfall

As rains splattered across the national capital, the total number of deceased rose to 11 on June 29, within two days.

It started on Friday, June 28, with a cab driver, Ramesh Kumar, who died after the canopy of Terminal 1 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport fell on his car. After that, a 39-year-old man at Rohini’s Prem Nagar succumbed due to electrocution, while two children drowned in a rainwater pool in New Usmanpur.

Similarly, on Saturday, June 29, six others died, with three construction workers succumbing to a wall collapsing on them at Vasant Vihar. The deceased were identified as Dayaram, Santosh Kumar Yadav and Santosh Kumar.

The former was a resident of Uttar Pradesh while the latter two were residents of Bihar. On the other hand, two other boys drowned in Badli at an underpass, while another 60-year-old, Digvijay Kumar Choudhary, died in Okhla underpass, after his scooter got stuck there.

The Delhi Fire Services (DFS), however, rescued at least 21 people from a bus stuck under the Azadpur bridge with the help of three fire tenders.