In times of natural calamities, New Gurgaon offers the clearest view of the dystopia from which urban India has turned its head away, in the hope it will disappear. Around 35 years after it was established, faulty urbanisation threatens to halt its march, as the last week’s unprecedented 20-hour gridlock showed.
Badshapur drain, the main carrier of storm water out of the city, stands testimony to this havoc. Its gradual destruction — through acts of commission and omission — has disrupted the natural flow of storm water. This is the single biggest factor behind the severe waterlogging that the city witnesses.
When chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar looks closely — he did an aerial inspection of Badshapur drain on Monday — he will know that the fault lies with the government. Over the years, roads, housing projects and full-fledged Huda sectors have come up in the catchment area of the drain that begins at Ghata and stretches up to Najafgarh drain in Delhi.
When the urbanisation we see today began in earnest in the mid-1990s, project after project got cleared and built in its catchment area, cutting off the flow of rain water into it, eventually drying it up into a narrow trickle. This cleared the way for further encroachment. Hydrologists in the irrigation department said they have been warning Gurgaon’s administrators about the consequences for years. But Huda went on acquiring land on lake beds and drain catchment areas, and selling it to private developers, and to the National Highways Authority of India to build the expressway.
Construction on the bed of Ghata lake may have begun only five years ago, but much damage had already been done by then. Blockage points at Sohna road and Hero Honda Chowk on NH-8 were built in 2005-06. New sectors — 58, 59 and 62, and parts of old sectors — 49, 56 and 57, were also built on the drain’s catchment area. Badshapur lake, once a major water reservoir once spread across 23,200 sq m near Sohna road, was destroyed even before that.
Google Earth cached images between 2004 and 2015 reveal over 60% of Badshapur drain has been destroyed by real estate development around Golf Course extension road and Sohna road. Around 60% of Badshapur drain’s catchment area between Vatika Chowk and Hero Honda Chowk is blocked by real estate development.
An irrigation department official, who did not wish to be named, said, “It all started some 20 years ago when authorities brought in new regulation that allowed easy change of land use, and sold off all the land to real estate developers. The situation got worse when construction of new sectors began in 2008-09 around Golf Course Extension road. Ghata lake shrank alarmingly due to construction of numerous multi-story buildings in the vicinity of its bundh. In official records from the ’90s, Badshapur drain was 47 km long and at least 40 feet wide.”
Two other major natural drains also drain into Badshapur drain — Nathupur drain near DLF Phase 3 and L2 drain in Old Gurgaon. These, along with the hundreds of smaller natural drains that empty into them, together evacuated all of Gurgaon’s excess rainwater into Najafgarh drain, which took it to Delhi.
Even though Huda built an artificial storm water drain in 2011-12 along sector roads, connecting Ghata lake to Badshapur drain near Sohna road, it has proved woefully inadequate. A mere 768 cusec discharge from Ghata lake is diverted to Badshapur drain by Huda’s covered drain, which is only 15 feet wide. As a retired Huda official, on condition of anonymity, said, “Over the years, as rainfall decreased, authorities used it as an excuse to go ahead with land-use change and sell the land to builders, against the advice of environmentalists.”