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July 18, 2019

Roads and rivers


July 18, 2019

Lahore’s roads were converted into rivers on Tuesday after a daylong deluge. According to the Meteorological Office, around 142 millimeters of rain fell in Lahore and its vicinity in 24 hours, effectively paralyzing the city. While municipal staff did make efforts to pump out water, poor drainage systems in many locations made this a virtually impossible task with rain falling almost without break. As could be expected, long traffic jams were witnessed on major roads and the collapse of around a hundred electricity feeders meant power remained cut off to many parts of the city for up to 12 hours or more. There were also reports of injuries, mainly due to roof collapsing, to at 10 people. As always those living in inadequate housing suffered worst as did pedestrians, bike riders and those without vehicles of their own. Water covered footpaths and in many cases the absence of any footpaths at all made their life difficult. More rain is forecast for the city and the rest of the Punjab with a heavy monsoon already predicted for this year.

While Chief Minister Usman Buzdar carried out visits to various parts of the city and is reported to have given stranded women and children lifts in his car, what is far more important is that a comprehensive plan be worked out to prevent so much havoc. After all rain is not an uncommon event in Lahore and other major cities, especially during the monsoon season. In other places around the world, where rain is an almost daily occurrence, better designed drainage, well maintained sewers and other facilities prevent the kind of chaos we experience regularly.

A civic plan keeping in view the specific needs of Lahore and other northern cities needs to be devised, since rain will after all remain a regular seasonal event. Planners and architects have been able to use modern technology to at the very least reduce the disruption of daily life and the hazards caused by rain. We should be able to manage the same. Each year during the monsoon we hear of emergency meetings, orders issued by officials and the cancellation of holiday for municipal staff to tackle the problem brought by rain. But this is not a sustainable solution. A permanent method to prevent roads from being flooded must be put in place. The damage caused to vehicles which become trapped in water and the loss of work with many unable or unwilling to turn up at offices and work places causes considerable economic damage. It is time we sat down and found a way out of this annual predicament.

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