Mumbai, which comes in crises during every monsoon, this time authorities have geared up towards safety. The city that has learned to live with except that the media hyper aerates on it, and then waits for the next breaking news. Every Mumbaikar knows it well why this unpleasant experience visits upon the city in monsoon. The BMC failed in its efforts to prevent waterlogging across the city. One, the city has a drainage problem. Every time it rains when the high tide is on, the rainwater does not flow out of the city. It backs up and inundates every low-lying part. Among the low-lying parts are the railway tracks, said to be a few feet below the mean sea level (MSL) and that explains their submersion. The bureaucracies of the civic bodies are culpable too. They approve the poor work done by the contractors, and are responsible for the delayed contracts because the standing committee takes it own time for venal reasons. Settling cuts is more important than getting the work done speedily. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner, the civic body has geared up to tackle the monsoon of Mumbai and this year even COVID19. They have lots of challenges ahead.
BMC authorities would be paying special attention to dilapidated buildings, road and rail traffic, removing encroachments and security. The BMC has claimed that they have cleared 2.44 lakh tones of 3.49 tons of the silt from major nullahs and 2.13 tons of the 3.09 tonnes from minor nullahs. The BMC has also listed 398 buildings in the C1 category, dilapidated condition, which need to be vacated. Of these, 64 are in N ward (Ghatkopar), 51 in Andheri and Jogeshwari (K West ward) and 47 in Mulund (T ward), with 193 cases sub-judice and 46 with the technical advisory committee (TAC).
The compounding is by the garbage that chokes the escape paths. The storm water drains, over a century old in the island part, have not been completely renewed though a big-ticket project, BRIMSTOWAD, is underway at snail’s pace – the costs have escalated, and the pace is not improving. Read about it here. However, the poor drainage system is not the only reason. It’s the intensity of the sleet and it’s timing, coinciding with the high tides. It has a lot to do with the way solid waste is managed. Though it is a routine requirement to be routinely attended to, contracts for clearance of drains – nallahs as we call them – are issued late. The work starts after a lag, and the contractor hopes the muck not cleared would somehow get washed away, and he is saved the expenditure of having to clean them up.
The contractors who failed and hold the city to ransom are not punished. They, in fact, continue to be bidders for the work year upon year, and no one bats an eye. In fact, it is a routine. So live with it. The city has a habit of calculating the loss of business or the impact on the economy. It may make sense to impose an equivalent as fine on the contractors. The elected ward representatives, who are there because they chose to be in civic politics, do not give a damn about the management of the solid waste management in their bailiwicks. They do not inspect the drains, except when a bigwig of their respective party stirs out for a photo-op, oops, inspection. The biggie issues instructions; the officials nod their heads, and then wait for the next year for the theatre of the absurd. It gives the impression that the politicians are hand-in-glove with the contractors mainly because the city residents are not of the go-lynch mindset. So, what are a heavy rain and a disruption? It is not understood that solid waste management is not only a piece of work to be taken up before the monsoon. They need to be kept constantly clean because there are health hazards of not attending to them.
10 percent of the city’s garbage is plastic, which means 650 metric tonnes per day. Each plastic bag weighs a few grams, even a plastic bottle. Imagine the abandon with which plastic is thrown. It is possible that the weight estimated is of only the garbage collected. The plastic bags are the real culprits while the other solid wastes, including construction material and thermalcoal to add to the crisis. The cities, like others, have banned plastic bags under 30 microns. Stores are asked to charge customers for plastic carry bags to dissuade use of plastic and encourage return to the cloth bag. However, small stores use plastic of all dimensions with impunity, and big stores have made a racket of it.
Above all, the city residents are equal culprits. They throw the garbage wherever it is possible. Because there are no convenient garbage bins, and even if the claim is of 7,500 tons of garbage per day, it is the collected garbage. The quantity of the uncollected garbage is anyone’s guess but they are what choke the drains. Walk through the slums, which accommodate half the city’s population, and the picture about the solid waste management practices emerge – no bins, careless flicking of the garbage as far away from one’s dwelling. However, the well-heeled are not innocent. They run shops and throw the garbage out on the sidewalk. They throw them out of the window. They are nonchalant about it, till the city is disrupted. But this time you may see some positive changes and very prompt resolutions to make Mumbai sage during monsoon.
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