India’s Silicon Valley is drowning under the worst rains of the century

Quartz india
Quartz india

By now, the degradation of Bengaluru as an urban centre is as well known as its reputation as “the mecca of startups” and “the Silicon Valley of India.” And this year’s monsoon has sealed that infamy.

Incessant rains over the last few weeks have turned the city into a nightmare for its residents. So much so that, besides the overflowing drains and halted public transport, residents have even had to bring out their own boats to commute, turning a long-running joke into reality. At least 16 people have lost their lives this season, while many others have been forced to remain indoors for several days due to heavy flooding.

To be fair, 2017 has been the city’s wettest year in at least 115 years, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). An already crumbling urban infrastructure and drainage system could hardly bear such downpour.

While the local government has come up with the usual justifications and promises to do better next time, citizens are marooned and venting their anger and helplessness on social media.

On Oct. 06, a Facebook user, Sarritaa P Ponnappa, uploaded a video of a boat carrying out rescue operations Koramangala, an unthinkable situation for the posh south Bengaluru neighbourhood known for its popular restaurants, elite colleges, and skyrocketing real estate prices.

Twitter is also filled with images and videos of waterlogging on roads, and houses and offices being flooded.

Ranked among the world’s 25 most high-tech cities, Bengaluru is home to the India headquarters of global tech giants like Microsoft, IBM, Infosys, and Wipro. It also hosts nearly 30% of the country’s startups, including posterboys like Flipkart and Ola. Karnataka is the fifth-largest state in India by gross domestic product, accounting for around 7% of the country’s GDP, a big chunk of which comes from its capital Bengaluru.

But almost every other year, rains lead to severe waterlogging, traffic jams, and disruptions in cellphone connectivity and power—besides deaths.

On Oct. 15, Karnataka’s chief minister Siddaramaiah said the city simply could not cope with such a downpour. “During the last 60 days, it has rained on 46 days. The drains and stormwater drains do not have the capacity to withstand so much rain,” he said. As expected, he blamed the previous governments for their failure on the infrastructure front.

His own government, he said, had assigned Rs800 crore ($123.6 million) to build 350 kilometres of drains in the city’s worst-hit areas.

Meanwhile, if it doesn’t stop raining, Bengaluru is in for a catastrophe. According to the IMD, the city currently faces a “unique weather system” wherein the southwest monsoon has extended its stay and the northeast monsoon is expected to arrive soon.

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