Surat’s battle to hold back water has raged since its first flood wall in 1664. As its population soars, India’s ‘diamond city’ needs new solutions
Surat, known as the “diamond city”, faces a triple flooding threat: from the Tapi and the Ukai dam upstream, from the Arabian Sea, and from the 19 miles of creeks that spread through the city. It constructed its first flood wall in 1664, and the battle to hold back water has been raging ever since. Climate change has only exacerbated the situation.
“It is estimated that around 90% of Surat’s geographical area is affected by some type of climate hazard – whether flooding, coastal storms and cyclones or inundation associated with high tides and sea level rise. Much of the city and its surrounds are less than 10 metres above mean sea level.”
The dangers are compounded by the rapid expansion of Hazira, a port 15 miles from Surat built on reclaimed sections of flood plain, which has triggered major hydrological changes. The port has effectively narrowed the mouth of the Tapi where it meets the sea. “The large-scale industrial development at the mouth of the river causes a rise in the water level immediately upstream,” Bhat’s paper noted.
The city has reached the stage where it must accept that future floods are inevitable, Bhat says. “We have to learn to live with the floods, and manage them in a way so our life is not disturbed too much.”