MCC: Are you ready for disaster management this monsoon?

If summer is here, can the monsoon be far away? No. In May-June, the blue sky above will turn gray and then black; the wind would move faster and the scorched earth would soak with the heavy rain from above.

The rains, at first, come like thieves. Stealthily. Unpredictable. Poor two-wheeler riders are often caught off guard. And then sooner or later it sinks. Buckets. Thunder. A thunderstorm accompanied by lightning, then the sky with dark, threatening clouds turning to rain with tsunami-like speed and surprise.

I am talking about the rains because I am aware of the devastation caused by heavy rains accompanied by strong high-speed winds over the past two or three years in our city. Overflowing storm drains criss-crossing the city and residential developments, flooded roads and UGD choking with manholes spitting mud rushing into homes in low-lying areas, vehicles floating in water gushing over roads turned the rivers into floods. This will be the common sight during these heavy downpours.

But the worst scenario would be landslides in the slopes and hill of Chamundi. Add to that the likely collapse of old buildings, some centuries old, like the iconic Devaraja Market, the Lansdowne building and others.

Our Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) and Public Works Department (PWD) should anticipate such disastrous events following the rains and be prepared to handle the situation effectively and in time. Are they ready? Do they have all the equipment, paraphernalia and skilled labor to deal with such an eventuality? Are rubber inflatable lifeboats and vehicles that can travel on flooded roads ready?

Are the firefighters ready? What about the protocol for evacuating people and animals from the disaster site? Where would they find refuge for those who are evacuated? How will they be rehabilitated? What about their food and medicine?

CESC (Department of Electricity): Are you ready for the monsoon emergency?

Forest Department: Are you ready with a battery saw and wood cutting equipment to clear roads that might be blocked by downed trees?

Hopefully elected officials and officials will address these issues before the monsoon sets in. With “climate change”, it is possible that rainfall will be as erratic and ferocious as in the past. You have been warned.

Lansdowne Building
Lansdowne, now abandoned
so dangerous to occupy

Now let me come to two huge buildings of century-old Devaraja market and Lansdowne building. Devaraja market was waiting to collapse if heavy rains hit it – as happened in August 2016 when part of it collapsed.

The problem is the benefactors, the sages. There are two groups that make a kind of “manthan”, as in the mythology of “Samudra Manthan”. One is made up of “Experts”, defenders of heritage buildings and the other is the Government who wants to demolish it and rebuild a new one (keeping the same architecture if necessary). The case is in court, with some tenants demanding restoration by conservation experts. Well, by the time the Court’s decision is handed down, the monsoon would be here and God knows what would happen to the barely standing structure of Devaraja Market. Good morning! MCC Are you ready for disaster management this monsoon? Or do you expect conservation experts (consultants) to work miracles, paying their high consulting fees, as in the past?

Now about the Lansdowne building. It has been dropped as dangerous for the occupation for over a decade now after part of it collapsed killing four people in August 2012.

The Government Guesthouse
The Government Guesthouse

Silly questions are being asked by these lovers of heritage buildings: How come other century-old buildings like Governor’s House and Wellington House are in livable condition?

The Wellington House (Lodge)
The Wellington House (Lodge)

Well, it all comes down to build quality and the engineers who built them. But more importantly, both of these buildings were residential buildings, less subject to abuse and the pressure of everyday use. While the Devaraja Market and Lansdowne buildings are abused by their tenants (to make their buildings suitable for their store or business needs). Many walls were broken and the rented area modified, weakening the structure and the building.

Devaraja Market
Devaraja Market — a
deceptive facade

And then, every day, thousands of footsteps trample the moving space of the buildings. Naturally, they become structurally weak and prone to collapse due to age and natural calamities such as heavy rains and even a minor earthquake.

Think about what is good for those who occupy and use these buildings seriously, rationally. Not emotionally, like a sentimental fool. Should we hear about the building collapsing and people dying after the “restoration” of these heritage buildings?

MCC, be ready for disaster management this monsoon? Forewarned is Forewarned.

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