Development challenges: The alarming deficit in stormwater drainage in urban India

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Development in urban India is swallowing soft landscape, nature’s absorbent for rainwater. And the man-made alternative, stormwater drains along roads, faces major deficits in urban locations. The last time the ministry of urban development surveyed for stormwater drains in 13 states, the coverage was below 50%—a level the ministry terms as “immediate action for improvement”—in 56 of 104 cities and in 745 of 1,383 urban areas that responded.

104 large cities surveyed

The ministry, for 2010-11, surveyed 13 states for various indicators in urban water and sanitation. One of these was stormwater drainage. Here, coverage was defined in terms of the percentage of road length covered by the stormwater drainage network; further, only those drains made of pucca (permanent) construction were considered. A total of 1,383 urban local bodies (ULBs) responded, of which 104 were municipal corporations/nagar nigams in large cities. As many as 56 of these 104 large cities had coverage below 50% (a level termed by the ministry as needing “immediate action for improvement”) and 93 had coverage below 75% (“caution for improvement”).






All 1,383 respondent cities/towns from 13 states

Stormwater drains, which are designed to address high rainfall concentrated in a short period of time, face clogging with garbage and sewage. That is, when they exist in the first place; often they don’t. So, the city gets deluged even if it receives less-than-normal rainfall. In half the 1,383 cities/towns that responded to the survey, stormwater drainage coverage was below 50%; in 1,142, it was below 75%. Odisha, Kerala and Chhattisgarh were the worst among the states. Among the better ones, relatively speaking, were Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.




Cities and rainfall

The importance of stormwater drainage to a city increases in the context of changing weather patterns such as erratic and uneven rains (see charts) and more rainfall in a single day. According to data from, the number of days in Mumbai with rainfall above 40 mm has increased by 2.78% over a decade. As has the number of days above 60 mm and 80 mm, by 3.21% and 3.56%, respectively.




Source: Ministry of urban development report titled ‘Service levels in urban water and sanitation sector’ for 2010-11


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News in Numbers, June 2, 2016: Call drop data in 11 cities, India’s first rail university…


What is it? The number of cities that will get access to call drop data in the next 15 days.

Why is it important? The naming and shaming strategy is expected to push telcos to improve their service quality, and keep the drops below 2%. Earlier, the Supreme Court struck down the telecom regulator’s recommendation of imposing penalty on telcos. Now, it is reportedly seeking the authority to do so from the government.

Tell me more: On Wednesday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India released the call drop data for Delhi. Airtel’s 2G and 3G call drop rates have deteriorated in May when compared to those last September while Vodafone’s 2G call drop rates improved (though still above the permitted 2% limit) and on its 3G network, it remained constant at 1.4%.



What is it? Percentage of loans given by public sector banks (excluding the State Bank of India and its associates) of the total as of March 2016.

Why is it important? It’s down from 50.06% in March 2015 and the lowest in over 12 years. The shrinking market share is likely to expedite consolidation in Indian banking industry. Recently, the Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said India would have 8-10 competitive public sector banks “when the dust settles”.  

Tell me more: This is an effect of the central bank’s mandate asking lenders to clean up their balance sheets by March 2017, which led to categorising more loans as bad, increase in provisions and net losses, and deterioration in capitalisation levels. In terms of deposits too, public sector banks lost their market share – from 50.95% in March 2015 to 48.32% in March 2016.


Rs 865 crore

What is it? The cost of setting up India’s first railway university in Vadodara, excluding land costs.

Why is it important? The railway university, which would offer MBA, B.Tech, M.Tech degrees, and diplomas is aimed at transforming India into a global centre for research and development in railway engineering and management. Indian Railways is the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second largest under a single management.

Tell me more: An internal report by the Railway Board last year had suggested the setting up of rail research centres and introducing railway-related subjects in existing universities instead of setting up new ones. The National Academy of Indian Railways in Vadodara is the apex training institute for all Railway officers.


Rs 20,000 crore

What is it? The cost of building a common Secretariat on Lodhi Road in Delhi to house various ministries (excluding a few key ones) and departments.

Why is it important? This move is likely to make inter-communication between ministries and departments easier and quicker and would also help the government in tackling shortage of office space, which often pushes them towards high rentals.

Tell me more: The proposal by the Central Public Works Department would be presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his approval. This includes razing down of residential complexes of 4,000 families who will be provided with alternate housing.



What is it? The number of Delhi University (DU) teachers who have been protesting against some recent changes in University of Grants Commission (UGC) rules since May 24.

Why is it important? This affects the evaluation of answer sheets of around 1.3 lakh undergraduate students. They are protesting against the increase in number of working hours, difficulty in getting promotions, especially for Assistant Professors, and the likely loss of jobs for approximately 5,000 teachers, especially those in ad hoc positions.

Tell me more: The UGC has called for a meeting of all stakeholders on June 6 to discuss issues including the basis on which teachers are promoted and their workload and if the issues are not resolved then, it could lead to a delay in DU results and sessions.

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How people in India’s top 53 cities commute to work – by gender, transport type and distance

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A greater percentage of workers in Rajkot drive to work than in any other city. Half the people using public transport in Vasai Virar travel more than 20km—one way. As many as 71% of women workers in Agra don’t travel to work. One-third of women workers in Chandigarh drive to work, the highest among all cities in India.

Such findings can be gleaned from a recently-released data set by Census 2011 on the mode of transport that “other workers”—those not engaged in household industry or agricultural occupations—use to commute to work and the distance they travel.

The data interactive below takes part of that data set and tailors it to present the picture of work-related travel—or, non-travel in many cases—in India’s top 53 cities, each of which has a population of 1 million or more. The interactive lets you cut the data in multiple ways: by gender, by three modes of transport and by five distance buckets.

It’s a commentary on many things. How public transport is a failure: less than 20% of workers use it in 33 of these 53 cities, the two exceptions being Greater Mumbai region and Kerala cities. How private transport does not have the numbers—only a quarter to a third of a city’s citizens use it to travel to work—but receives the most attention. How the lack of adequate and diverse employment opportunities mean that several tier-II and tier-III cities are still largely about work-from-home options.



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The demographic number that binds cities in Bihar and Kerala

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On nearly every socioeconomic indicator, these two states tend to sit on opposite ends of the spectrum. But there’s one where they sit side by side: their inability to hold on to their young with ample economic opportunities, shows an analysis of Census age data of 505 Indian cities and towns with a population of more than 100,000. At a broader level, this data is illustrative of the concentration of economic opportunities in India to select city clusters, raising questions about migration and livelihoods.

Concentration of economic opportunities

Of the 505 cities and towns with a population above 100,000, in only 30 does the 20-34 age group—the prime and potential of a workforce—make up more than 30% of their population. Maharashtra dominates this list, with 10 cities. Other than Maharashtra, only Gujarat, the Nationa Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and Tamil Nadu have more than one city in the top 20. Uttar Pradesh, the state with the most such cities and towns (64), has only one in this list; as do the next two states, West Bengal (61) and Madhya Pradesh (44).


Maharashtra on one end, Bihar and Kerala on the other

Several industrial hubs, like Pimpri Chinchwad and Pithampur, feature in the 15 cities with the highest percentage of 20-34 year-olds. Four of the top 15 cities are from Maharashtra. In the bottom 15, Kerala has seven cities and Bihar has four.





Even within states, there is wide variance

Bihar and Kerala are a distinct notch below other states in having a young population in their cities and towns. Although Maharashtra dominates the top, it also shows a wide variance, suggesting uneven development. Two other large states that show wide variance are Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.




Bihar and Kerala

Although Bihar and Kerala are lumped in the bottom, there are nuances. While Bihar is primarily about urban migration caused by a lack of economic opportunities, Kerala’s numbers are also tempered by fertility rates that are lower and life expectancy that is higher than most Indian states.




Urban migration without families

Most cities and towns with the highest percentage of 20-34 yearolds have lopsided sex ratios, which indicate that single men, or men leaving their families behind, are migrating to them for work.




Among populous cities, Kolkata has the smallest percentage of the young

A majority of the 15 most populous cities have a middling to high percentage of 20-34 years in their population. Kolkata, Lucknow and Kanpur come in at the bottom of this list. In terms of sex ratio in this age bracket, most cities show a male skew, other than Hyderabad and Chennai.




Notes: Data is for 2011, before Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated to form Telangana. In order to enable understanding and facilitate indicative comparison, city names have been stripped of their administrative Census definitions like municipal corporations, outgrowths, census towns, etc. So, for example, Bengaluru here represents the Greater Bengaluru metropolitan area, or Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

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