IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 31st Oct 2020

“The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.” – Richard Bach

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #218 :“20 Points – Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC

20 Points - Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC

Kabeer Arora
20 Points – Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC

Kabeer Arora is an urbanist working with Hyderabad Urban Lab.


Time for a ‘sponge cities’ mission in India


The idea needs traction at a time when discussion on urban flooding only reduces the problem to simple dichotomies

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 1 : 3 : Flood Management : Disaster Management


The idea of Sponge cities is delayed. The number of floods each year have only increased . Discuss Flood mitigation polices for sustainable future ahead -(GS 3)


  • Metropolitans and Floods
  • Reasons for Flash Floods
  • What is a Sponge City ?
  • Way Forward


  • UNPREDICTABLE NATURE : Unbridled avarice and untrammelled urbanisation are back in currency, this time, in the wake of torrential rains of October in Hyderabad.
  • SUBMERGED TOWN : Thousands of homes remain submerged two weeks after the flood.

Over 50 people died.Hundreds of riverbed hutments were flushed away.The scale of destruction has been unprecedented.

  • URBAN SETTLEMENTS : Barely five years ago, it was Chennai that saw a massive flood costing much damage and lives;
  • METROPOLITANS AT STAKE : Gurugram over the past few years , and for Mumbai, the monsoon has become synonymous with flooding and enormous damages.



  • ANTHROPOGENIC REASONS : Rampant deforestation and cutting of hills have only worsened the situation.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE : The Rivers brings huge volume of water due to cloud bursts, which leads to flooding every year.
  • LAND EROSION : This causes water to overflow in the low-lying areas every time a flood occurs.

Poor dam management and flood control systems have led to gush water more ferociously .

  • MINING AND DREDGING : Many environmentalists say that these engineering processes are conducted with little or no environmental assessment.
  • NATURAL REASONS : Floods and landslides are usually caused when the average rainfall exceeds more than normal.
  • UNPLANNED URBANISATION : Mountainous areas undergoing defrosting can result in increased amounts of water reaching the rivers, often increases the water table rapidly.
  • MAPPING AND SURVEY : Incorporating storage space in the reservoirs could be considered as a preventive measure during the floods.



  • ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2016: Breaking a 16-year record, Hyderabad received 16 cm of rain in a single day.
  • IN SEPTEMBER 2017 : The city witnessed a 450% increase compared to the average rainfall it receives during this month;
  • IN SEPTEMBER 2019 : the rainfall was the highest in 100 years, while in October it was in 62% in excess.

The rainfall received in 2020 has been the highest for the month of October in a century.


  • SEWAGE SYSTEM : The floods of October 2020 occurred because we did not discharge the water in time.

And when we did discharge the water, we did it in a sudden, uncontrolled manner.

  • RESERVOIRS : To put it bluntly, first our sluices did not open and then our bunds breached.
  • ANTIQUATED INFRASTRUCTURE : Hyderabad’s century-old drainage system (developed in the 1920s) covered only a small part of the core city.
  • DEMOGRAPHIC BURDEN : In the last 20 years, the city has grown at least four times its original built-up area.
  • FAILURE OF DRAINAGE SYSTEM : The narrative of antiquated infrastructure conceals the fact that the city has grown rapidly, and into areas where there was no drainage infrastructure to begin with.
  • EXPANDING BOUNDARIES : And as the city grew beyond its original limits, not much was done to address the absence of adequate drainage systems.


  • ATTITUDINAL GAPS : The manner in which we talk about recurring floods in the city often reduces to individual conduct versus faceless states action.

This means that we neglect the issues of incremental land use change, particularly of those commons which provide us with necessary ecological support — wetlands.

  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT : This framing also disavows the role of local communities in managing local ecosystems — people with traditional rights for fishing and farming.
  • WETLAND MANAGEMENT : We need to start paying attention to the management of our wetlands by involving local communities.
  • SPONGE CITIES SCHEME : The risk is going to increase year after year with changing rainfall patterns and a problem of urban terrain which is incapable of absorbing, holding and discharging water.


  • RESPONSIBILITIES : Urban floods of this scale cannot be contained by the municipal authorities alone.
  • FUNDING : They cannot be managed without concerted and focused investments of energy and resources.
  • MISSION MODE SETUP : Such investments can only be done in a mission mode organisation with active participation of civil society organisations at the metropolitan scale.
  • MISSION OBJECTIVES : We need a mission that mitigates flood risk and provides a pathway to water security.

The most promising idea across the world at this time appears to be the idea of “sponge cities”.

  • PERMEABLE CITIES : The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it.
  • URBAN AQUIFERS : Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers.
  • GROUND WATER REJUVENATION : This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells.
  • WATER TREATMENT FACILITY : This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.

Applications inckude- open green spaces, interconnected waterways ,channels and ponds across neighbourhoods that can naturally detain and filter water.

  • ECOSYSTEM SERVICES : It implies support for urban ecosystems, bio-diversity and newer cultural and recreational opportunities.


  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
  • National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and
  • Smart Cities Mission.


On a top priority, such a mission should address the following.

  • The first subject is wetland policy.
  • In most of our lakes, the shallow ends, which often lie beyond the full tank level, have disappeared.

20 Points - Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC


  • Wetlands are sometimes owned by private individuals, other times existing as ecological commons.
  • Regardless of ownership, land use on even this small scale needs to be regulated by development control.


  • WATERSHED MANAGEMENT : Urban watersheds are micro ecological drainage systems, shaped by contours of terrain.

Detailed documentation of these must be held by agencies which are not bound by municipal jurisdictions.

  • DEMARCATING BOUNDARIES : We need to consider natural boundaries such as watersheds instead of governance boundaries like electoral wards for shaping a drainage plan.
  • IMPLEMENTATION : The Metropolitan Development Authorities, NDMA, State revenue and irrigation departments along with municipal corporations should be involved.
  • BAN ON TERRAIN ALTERATION : Lasting irreversible damage has been done to the city by builders, property owners, and public agencies by flattening terrain and altering drainage routes.
  • NON-POROUS CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL : Our cities are becoming increasingly impervious to water, not just because of increasing built up but also because of the nature of materials used.
  • SCIENTIFIC INTERVENTION : To improve the city’s capacity to absorb water, new porous materials and technologies must be encouraged or mandated across scales.

Technologies such as bioswales and retention systems, permeable material for roads , drainage systems, green roofs and harvesting systems in buildings.

  • RAINWATER HARVESTING : These not only reduce run-off and the load on infrastructure, but also help keep water in the city for later use.

      IASbhai Windup: 


  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENT : Acknowledging the role of different actors for the city can create a practical space to begin this work.
  • DETERMINING FAULT LINES : Doing so will not just help control recurring floods but also respond to other fault lines.
  • BUILDING RESILIENT STRUCTURES : Provide for water security, more green spaces, and will make the city resilient and sustainable.
  • BLAME GAMES : The constant search for a scapegoat to blame, while a few people try what they can, limits our capacities and only creates cycles of devastation.

We must not allow nature, human conduct, and urbanisation to be mystified and rendered as trans-historic villains.

  • LEARN ADAPT AND REGULATE : We can learn to live with nature, we can regulate human conduct through the state and we can strategically design where we build.
  • SPONGE CITIES : We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water without causing so much misery .


  • BETTER FLOOD FORECASTING : Information about floods forecasts must reach the affected villages in time.
  • BANNING CONSTRUCTIONS : Ban all construction on low-lying floodplains.
  • STRENGTHEN EMBANKMENTS : Create more room for the river, not restrict it.

How can we stop Mega Constructions around rivers? It is not making room for a river . River has its own room !

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | 20 Points – Urban Flood Management in India | UPSC


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