Bhanu Rekha's death exposes Bengaluru's poor road infrastructure

The 23-year-old techie died after her car submerged in a flooded underpass


Following the death of Bhanu Rekha, a 23-year-old techie, after her car submerged in a flooded underpass in Bengaluru, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is conducting an audit of all underpasses in the city to identify the dark spots. The tragic incident has once again exposed the precarious condition of road infrastructure in the IT city.

The civic body is planning to remodel the underpasses to prevent excess water on the road surface from flowing into it, and to connect the drains to channel rainwater into the stormwater drains. Even as the authorities are toying with the idea of boom barriers to shutdown the underpasses during heavy rains, and installing surveillance cameras and vertical clearance gauge beams, experts blame the poor design and lack of maintenance of the underpasses for the tragedy. 

"The city has around 78 underpasses and most of them are faulty in design. The water flows into the underpasses instead of draining out. The BBMP has released Rs 35,400 crore on road related works like flyovers, underpasses, asphalting and white-topping in the last seven years, but we can see works worth only Rs 6,000 crores. The Projects Central and Road Infrastructure departments of the BBMP are responsible for the upkeep of the major roads and ward roads. But they have clearly failed," rued N.R. Ramesh, a former BJP corporator.

The monsoon begins in June and the authorities should start desilting the drains and check if the automatic pump sets are working before that, suggest experts. 

"Clogged drains and unscientific design of the underpasses are creating death traps," Ramesh said.

Another major challenge has been the encroachments along the rajakaluves (stormwater drains), which force the rainwater to gush out and overflow on to the roads and into the underpasses. "Out of the 842 kilometres of rajakaluves, at least 400 kilometres is encroached. The narrowing and diversion of the main drains is causing severe floods," added Ramesh. 

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has directed the civic officials to take up scientific remodelling of 53 underpasses that had water logging issues. He also instructed police to ban traffic through the underpasses during heavy rains. The BBMP commissioner has ordered an audit of all the underpasses to evolve case-specific solutions to make them safe.  

The BBMP authorities contended that high density rainfall during a short span of time had resulted in a flood-like situation and the dry leaves and litter had blocked the rainwater from entering the drains. 

The Sunday's deluge and the mounting woes of the citizens have also brought into focus the absence of an elected civic body in the city. Interestingly, the BBMP does not have an elected body of corporators since September 2020 as the elections were deferred multiple times citing delimitation of the wards (increased from 198 to 243 wards) and due to lack of consensus over the reservation of wards. 

After the September 2022 deluge that affected the IT hub of the city, the state government had allocated Rs 1,500 crore for desilting and remodelling of the stormwater drains in flood-prone areas. Yet, the work is incomplete owing to delay in payment to contractors.

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