Transit and the Monsoon: Can We Harmonize the Two?
India's monsoon nourishes the land providing sustenance for millions, but ravages transit infrastructure every year. Image via prakhar.

India's monsoons nourish the land, providing sustenance for millions, but they also ravage transit infrastructure every year. Image via prakhar.

Over the past year, we’ve written extensively about the new bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Ahmedabad, India, called Janmarg BRT. The system — India’s first full BRT — was a game-changer in India in the sphere of urban transit infrastructure development; it has earned high praise for its accessibility and signage and its efficient operation and low cost.  Janmarg undoubtedly set a new standard for BRT in India.

But now, after days of heavy monsoon rains in Ahmedabad, DNA India reported recently that much of the system has been washed out: corridors flooded,  infrastructure crumbled in places, and the system’s LED lights malfunctioned as the monsoon rains fell.

The nearly 25-kilometer system cost approximately Rs 8.5 crore (US$1.9 million) per kilometer to build — with total project costs around Rs400 crore (US$88 million.) Now, the system’s operator, Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) may face crores of losses.

Some of this damage was likely expected. As EMBARQ Senior Transport Engineer Dario Hidalgo points out, a section of the BRT was actually meant to be temporary, in light of the impending monsoon rains. In addition, this monsoon has been particularly brutal, causing devastating flooding in neighboring Pakistan.

But more brutal monsoons will still follow – global warming will ensure that.  So after these monsoon rains end, Ahmedabad faces the challenge — and opportunity — of investing in a more monsoon-resistant system.

Monsoon rains wreak havoc on urban transit systems every year, as we’ve noted in our blogging series, “Mumbai through the Monsoon.”  But as we’ve also highlighted,  India continues to rely on these rains for survival, and this means that sustainable transport infrastructure will have to be designed in a special way, to run in harmony — to the extent possible — with heavy rains that provide sustenance to the still predominantly agricultural nation.

In the coming weeks, we will be providing analysis from our partners in Ahmedabad and across India about how this might be achieved.

Watch a video of Janmarg BRT — an international best-practice BRT — in action:

Ahmedabad BRT Janmarg from EMBARQ Network on Vimeo.

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