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China’s floods send an all important message to developing nations– what not to do while embarking on urbanisation

Heavy rains flood several parts of China

The severe floods in urban China, which have brought much misery to the citizens—several have died—hold an important message for the developing world—urbanisation needs careful planning. China received unprecedented rains this year. Last year too, the country was flooded due to heavy showers. But analysts said that besides the heavy rains, unplanned urbanisation without proper drainage has aggravated the impact.

The South China Morning Post in a report last year said that aside from the rainfall, human behaviour has also contributed to the severity of the floods in China.

A study by the Proceedings of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (PIAHS) published in September last year noted that “One of the salient problems that China’s urban planning has is that people focus more on what to do on the ground instead of caring about what happens under the ground.” The significance of the drainage system has been overlooked while carrying out the rapid urbanisation exercise.

Experts said that the “well developed” cities as they look on the surface need to first take care of the basic requirements on the ground which include drainage system.

Also read: Flood-hit Henan braces for new round of downpour

“Floods are not uncommon in China, though now the rains have increased over the years due to climate changes but the issue that is at the core is the lack of planning in terms of the drainage. When a particular place is prone to rains, it is imperative to have a well defined and robust drainage system,” an Indian entrepreneur who has economic dealings with China told India Narrative.

Another analyst said that while India is also looking at developing several smart cities, the basics must be kept in mind.

It is no secret that heavy rains regularly inundate the millennium city Gururgam, in the National Capital Region. Mumbai too is flooded every year once the rains start.

“The good thing is that fixing the current infrastructure gaps in the main cities and also the ones that are currently on the list may not be very difficult as they are still being worked on unlike many places in China,” an analyst said on condition of anonymity.

Infrastructure is key to woo investors. “Urbanisation is key but we need to be very careful and ensure that no loopholes are left,” he said.

Also read: Floods in Henan province have damaged crops–will they leave Chinese hungry and angry?

Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry in an article in Hindustan Times wrote, “In an automobile obsessed age, we think of roads as the arteries of the city, but it is really drainage networks that should play this part. They are not merely to ensure that roads do not get flooded after a downpour but are an organic part of the city as green lungs, water-table recharge, public transport, waste management, and spaces for leisure.”