The season of floods begins

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After heavy rain in Ulaanbaatar, roads and road tunnels are flooded every summer, causing inconvenience to pedestrians and drivers. Due to insufficient of storm drainage system, Ulaanbaatar residents have no choice but to jump over and tread the puddles and pools that form after rain.

In some cases, floods make it impossible for people or even cars to travel. In particular, a few days ago, road tunnels in Khan-Uul District and 26th khoroo of Bayanzurkh District were flooded to the point where cars could not drive.

On June 9, emergency specialists visited the sites to inspect the situation and determined that the Selbe River flooded due to two days of rain. A pipe was also laid to pump water into the river. There is a railroad over the tunnels, so urgent action is needed. Otherwise, there is a risk that the road embankment will collapse.

In connection with the stagnant water, engineer G.Bolor-Erdene of the Geodesy and Water Construction Department, which is pumping the water in the tunnels, said, “This year’s high water level is due to the fact that the water level in the northern Selbe River is two to three times higher than it should be. The water collected here must go through a pipe and flow into the river. The drainage that was supposed to drain this water was blocked, so the water got stuck at the same level as the river.”

    “To reduce the amount of water, there is a way to pump it to the area where the water is low, or just wait for the river to reach its normal level,” he added.

This shows that the surface drainage system is not well developed in Ulaanbaatar. In 1960, three flood drainage collectors were built in the city. Since then, no renovations have been made. Therefore, it is clear that the 60-year-old flood pipe and drainage is dire need of replacement.

Moreover, there are not enough drainage and drainage wells. For instance, about 20 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s roads have drainage, while more than 80 percent of the roads do not have it. For more than 840 km of roads in Ulaanbaatar, there are 184 km of underground drainage systems with engineering solutions. These underground networks are located on 46 locations in the city and drain surface water through more than 3,000 drainage wells.

According to the Ulaanbaatar Road Development Agency, surface water is removed through about 2,000 wells, and rainwater on the road is pumped out by the Geodesy and Waterworks staff.

However, the fact that the city has “access to sea” every summer shows that there is a need to improve and increase surface and underground drainages.

LOW BUDGET, LOW IMPACT

In 2020, 2 billion MNT was budgeted for the expansion and maintenance of the road drainage with the Ulaanbaatar’s road fund. In other words, drainages were installed on existing roads. Within the framework of this work, new drainage lines are built in 6 to 10 locations a year, about 500 drainage wells are repaired, and about 300 wells are rehabilitated in accordance with the approved schedule. However, the current situation provides ample evidence that drainage is still insufficient.

It is estimated that 180 billion MNT is needed to rehabilitate 1,100 km of roads in Ulaanbaatar and install drainage lines and wells. If this budget is resolved, the city’s roads will not have water-related problems. However, this year, 1 billion MNT was budgeted.

In other words, as the budget was halved, it is clear that the construction of drainage pipes this year will be less than last year. Furthermore, it is unclear when the city will get rid of flood issues.

In addition to budget issues, there are many cases where the work is disrupted, which has a negative impact on the resolution of this issue. In particular, in recent years, there have been a number of cases in which housing companies have arbitrarily removed underground drainages during the excavation of foundations of buildings and rendered them inoperable.

Specialist of the Ulaanbaatar Road Development Agency B.Marina provided information on this issue. 

“A lot of money is spent on cleaning the mud from road drainages several times a year. However, there is no legal framework to hold individuals and companies accountable for violating the terms of use. In 2020, 4,134.2 cubic meters of drainage wells were cleaned in 174 locations in six districts of Ulaanbaatar. This year, it is planned to clean 4,712.2 cubic meters of sludge from rainwater drainage wells,” she said.

Moreover, taxes paid by citizens are used to pay for public roads and drainages. However, only after the flood, dams and drainages are repaired and upgraded.

Surprisingly, residents said that it was not clear how they would be compensated for the damage caused by floods. It means that the neglect of maintenance and compensation breaches the right of residents to live in a healthy and safe environment. Therefore, there is a need for the tax collecting government to perform its duties well, and for citizens and businesses to follow the rules and regulations, and to maintain good health and safety.

OUTDATED DRAINAGES

Due to the outdated drainage system of old buildings, depending on the location of the town, large amounts of water accumulate on the roads, impeding the movement of residents. Particularly, the drainage system of the central road was congested due to the aging of the drainages of prefabricated apartments built from 1960 to 1980.

In addition to causing flooding, clogged drainages can be a source of many infectious diseases. Therefore, it is important to repair and renovate obsolete pipelines.

Moreover, every time a new apartment complex is built, the traffic load in the city increases accordingly. As the city expands, it will not be possible to absorb surface water into the soil, according to the Geodesy and Water Construction Department of Ulaanbaatar.

In particular, the population density of Chingeltei, Sukhbaatar and Bayanzurkh districts has increased, and the number of new apartments has increased, leading to more flooding of Ulaanbaatar’s roads.

Roads are being repaired every year, and new roads are being built, but no drainages are being built with them. In any case, roads with drainage pipes are very rare in Ulaanbaatar. Moreover, it can be said that there are practically now drainages in ger areas.

In some foreign countries, 1.5 km of engineering network are installed per km of road. This system, which was introduced to the road system relatively late, is now strictly followed by developed countries. As a result, roads last longer. Recently, Japan has developed a new asphalt with nanotechnology. It is a material that shrinks and stretches when heated by the sun and absorbs water.

While we are struggling to create a comprehensive drainage system here, technological advances are leaving us far behind. For now, Ulaanbaatar just needs a functioning storm drain.

This summer has once again reminded us of the need to build more drainages. If it is not possible to build additional drainages on existing roads, it is important not to repeat the previous mistakes when building new roads in the future.

In addition to the floods in Ulaanbaatar, the risk of drowning in rivers has increased in recent days due to heavy rain in most rural areas. Particularly, six children who went to Khar Lake in Tolbo soum of Bayan-Ulgii Province went missing. A search and rescue was conducted and on June 12, and emergency officials found bodies the children at a depth of from 5 to 10 meters in the lake, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

This is different from the floods caused by urban infrastructure problems. There is no way to overcome the forces of nature. Therefore, both urban and rural residents need to be careful of floods, prevent young children from playing near rivers, improve surveillance, and use safe roads and crossings.

In this regard, the measures and policies of the city administration are important, and the vigilance of each individual will contribute to this issue.

According to the National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring, precipitation in June will be higher than the long-term average in most parts of Khuvsgul and Selenge, western Arkhangai, northwestern Uvurkhangai, and northeastern Tuv Province.

Moreover, herders, farmers, businesses, travelers and people living along rivers are warned to be vigilant of floods and to ensure that water flows freely through the drainage ditches of urban flood embankments.

Misheel Lkhasuren

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