Bengaluru floods: India's waterlogged IT city sparks memes and anger

Bengaluru floods: India's waterlogged IT city sparks memes and anger

By Imran Qureshi

BBC Hindi, Bengaluru

Vehicles wade through a street after heavy monsoon rains in Bangalore on September 5, 2022.Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Several areas of Bangalore have been flooded

A poster that has gone viral in the past 24 hours is a graphic parody on the state of affairs in a city famously described as India’s IT capital – Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore).

A social media user has altered the bookings page of Uber to make it look like it’s offering boats instead of cars. The meme has gone viral.

Many parts of Bengaluru have been flooded after heavy rainfall since Sunday. Experts say rapid construction, fast erosion of the city’s famous lakes and gardens, and poor urban planning are to blame for the crisis.

Image source, Twitter

Image caption, A meme that has gone viral

The Times of India website tweeted the photo of a swanky villa that resembled a pool.

And one woman shared a video claiming that adventure vacations were now available “at your front door”.

The Indian Meteorological Department ( IMD)’s local office said the last time it rained so heavily in the month of September was in 1998. And people who drove through flooded streets described the horrors they felt.

“I went to the office to pick up something important for a meeting. It was only after I reached that I realised that no-one else was there. So, I decided to go back home and my heart was in my mouth and my legs were shaking [as the streets had flooded by then],” said an IT professional who didn’t want to be named.

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Many IT companies have asked their employees to work-from-home for the rest of the week and many schools have gone back to online classes. India’s army has deployed boats to rescue stranded people.

Why this havoc?

IMD officials told the BBC that unusual weather patterns had caused the heavier-than-usual rainfall in the city and many other parts of the state.

The city’s water supply has also been impacted after heavy rains in Mandya district flooded the pumping stations that send water from the Cauvery river to Bengaluru.

Tushar Girinath, chief commissioner of Bengaluru’s main civic organisation, blamed the floods on the unusually heavy rainfall which, he said, could make life difficult in any city.

“For the first time, all the lakes in the city are full. They cannot take any more water. We simply do not have the capacity to take the water out because the storm water drains are already overflowing. We need to see the flooding in this context.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, People have been struggling to commute as streets have been flooded

But, Mr Girinath, said there were signs of relief as water levels had started receding in many areas.

“We are also removing encroachments over the storm water drains. This work has already begun and we are going full steam ahead,” he added.

Horror on repeat

Officials are facing heavy criticism for the recurring problem of floods in the city.

“The flooding this time is really bad, but it has also happened in an area where many people have access to social media, so it has been escalated a lot more this time than in the past. Before it settles down, there is bound to be one more heavy rainfall that can compound the situation,” said Srinivas Alavalli, head of civic participation in Janagraha charity.

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Experts say frequent flooding in many Indian cities in recent years is because many water bodies have been built over.

“The development model has not respected nature’s contours. If you think that you can block how nature operates [water finding its own levels], you are deluding yourself. We chose to convert water sheds into IT parks. Nature is not going to respect that,” urban planner V Ravichander said.

And the problem, he added, would only get worse in the coming years.

“It is not going to get any better. The city has overgrown. The storm water drains are shrinking because we have not desilted them. This is where the problem of incompetence in governance comes in.”

The way forward, he said, was for communities to come together in the neighbourhood to find solutions. “People have no option but to cooperate and find technical solutions and take it to the government.”

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