Floods and its political economy



The parties in power since the 1990s will have to share responsibility for the situation

The parties in power since the 1990s will have to share responsibility for the situation

The recent flooding of parts of Bengaluru, particularly the IT corridor, has sparked an expected blame game between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress over who ‘destroyed’ Bengaluru. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has called the encroachments of lakes, wetlands and storm drains (SWD) connecting the lakes a “legacy” that his government inherited.

Looking at how things have unfolded since the 1990s, all parties that have been in power – the Congress for 13 years, the BJP and various avatars of the Janata Dal for 10 years – will have to share the blame for the current state. Business. Since the mid-1990s, which saw the rapid development of the IT Corridor, this part of the city has been repeatedly affected by flooding. Bellandur Lake has spewed foam and even been on fire, due to rampant development and severe disruption of water ecology.

The IT Corridor and its adjoining areas stretch from East Bengaluru along the Outer Ring Road to South East Bengaluru. These areas were the most flood-affected parts of the city even before 2022. The location of Electronic City, established in 1978 southeast of the city, played a key role in the spatial orientation of the IT Corridor booming in the mid-1990s.

The IT boom has seen not only technology parks and office space springing up in the east-southeast axis of the city’s outskirts, but also residential projects, schools and other amenities to meet the needs of those who work here. With an incessant construction boom, it has the densest working colonies as well as high-end apartments. Development in this region has been largely unplanned; it is guided by a demand-supply logic without any regulation and rigged by a network of real estate agents and politicians. Experts pointed to a complete disregard for lakes, wetlands and SWDs along the city’s east-southeast axis. Climate change has only increased the frequency of extremely heavy rains in short interval events in Bengaluru. This was one of the main reasons for the flooding of parts of the city. Flooding was most pronounced where the water flow ecosystem was disrupted.

This uncontrolled development driven by market forces has occurred in the absence of government intervention in the provision of basic infrastructure such as housing. It is striking that the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) never tried to develop a housing development in the city’s busy IT corridor. Their layouts do not seem to correspond spatially to the direction of the development of the city. Planned development in these areas might not have taken into account the existing density and would also have addressed concerns of regional disparity in development within the city. A testament to the resilience of the planned development, the older parts of Bangalore are better able to handle extreme weather events, although cracks in their infrastructure are also emerging.

The most flooded areas at present were mainly governed by gram panchayats and city municipalities, which have relatively weak regulatory mechanisms at the height of the development boom. They were only included in the city limits in 2007. Municipal bodies are still catching up to provide infrastructure. Ironically, the world famous computer center does not yet have a functioning modern drainage system and potable water.

There may be no miracle solution to the mess and it takes great political will to take a long-term view and turn the situation around. The government has launched a campaign to remove encroachments from SWDs and wetlands, as it has done every time there has been flooding. Each time, the drive stopped at the doors of the rich and powerful. This trend is independent of the ruling party.

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