fter a long lock down and survival crisis, somehow Mumbai is trying to come back to life and here comes another challenge and that is none other than its own monsoon season. Heavy rains came back to hangout in Mumbai and its neighboring districts. Heavy to very heavy rain in overall Mumbai and extremely heavy rainfall in certain areas is expected by India Meteorological Department (IMD). But this time we may not get to see those routine sights of people waiting, stuck on the roads searching for means to reach home. We may not be able to look around and see that voluminous crowd walking by, office goers, homemakers and everyone getting stalled. Mumbai is already on stand still mode due to corona virus and people have not left their homes for months now. Every year, Mumbai receives very heavy rain within a short time, which usually brings the city to a standstill. Urban flooding is common in the city from June to September, resulting in the crippling of all transport, traffic, railways and airlines.
After COVID-19, now fever, malaria, dengue, leptospirosis, diarrhea and cholera enters our lives, where especially people staying in slums suffer the most. For years now, Mumbai’s politicians of all hues have blatantly ignored the signs: the crumbling drainage system; the built-over natural drainage; the poisonous landfills with 8-10 meters high garbage exuding poison; the untreated sewage, shamelessly dumped into the Arabian Sea. Each government claims of doing something but at the end Mumbai suffers with heavy water logging. This year the coastal lines and bridges have added to cities infrastructure further compromising many tress and jungles and there is no guarantee that the city will comfortably sail through rain water. This year Mumbai is likely to witness monsoon between June 3 and 10. The Southwest monsoon is expected to arrive over Kerala coast between June 1 & June 5 and is likely to reach Mumbai thereafter. The situation in Maharashtra is yet another failure where drought-prone Marathwada and Vidarbha has to witness shortages respectively. Farmers have been particularly affected due to lock down and untimely rains in some areas. The current monsoon is challenging India’s conventional simplistic nomenclature when describing complex global circulations like the monsoon. Depending only on quantity of rainfall to describe monsoon performance without accounting for distribution and influential atmospheric conditions would again lead to misreading of monsoon.
The life of Mumbai due to schemes like Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Bandra-Kurla Complex, which was built on mangroves or the Bandra-Worli Sea Link which narrowed the mouth of the Mithi river or the compromising of Gorai green zones for metro, Mumbai has really sacrificed its green wealth and no one paid heed to those warnings. Mumbai’s ‘official’ storm water drains consist of road drains, minor nullahs, major nullahs and outfall. All are interlinked and they finally empty into either the Arabian Sea directly or into the four creeks that open into the Arabian Sea. The City system is mostly underground while the suburbs have open drains and nullah’s. Outskirts are developing so rapidly that the municipality is not able to provide proper drainage. Also, low-lying areas and old ponds have been filled to make multi-story buildings and shopping malls. So, the natural drainage system of holding ponds and water channels has been completely eliminated and no longer exists in Mumbai and in extended Mumbai. Flooding is but natural here, no matter what you do. Mumbai’s drainage problem is completely an effect of widespread construction and reclamation-mania. The amount of water falling on the city has not decreased, but the space to flow has tremendously shrunk. Earlier, almost 50 percent water would seep into the ground, drastically reducing the total volume to be managed. But today since the whole city is cemented, whenever water falls unfortunately the ground cannot absorb it. Most nullah’s and drains are encroached upon and choked as they are not designed to tackle so much water volume.
Mumbai is growing vertically day by day and the population too is on rise. As most urban cities across the world are facing development disorder, Mumbai too is growing at such a rapid pace that basic infrastructure has failed to keep pace with it. Hence in Mumbai, more and more multi-storey buildings are coming up whereas the municipality is unable to provide their basic services. More and more of drinking water is being sourced for Mumbai from great distance, many kilometres away and more water supply means more generation of wastewater. Also, many localities that do not have adequate municipal water supply and depend on water tankers, so their wastewater does not count as official sewage. Again, to cut costs, many housing colonies prefer throwing their sewage into a nearby nullah rather than pay for an official drain connection. Even if BMC has arrangement of collecting garbage facilities, the garbage is not collected on regular intervals. As it takes days to collect garbage and inevitably the garbage gets spread on the roads during monsoon and eventually by flowing into the nearest drain it gets chocks up the city nallah’s. Due to so much organic decomposition, the city stinks heavily during monsoon, inviting skin diseases and many more illnesses. Most of the Mumbai’s untreated sewage gets routed in nullahs, rivulets and rivers such as Mithi and invariably all of it empties in unchecked volume into the sea. And it is wrong to only attack slums for polluting waterbodies. How much wastewater can a slum household generate which hardly receives any drinking water supply in the first place? Even, Mumbai’s waste management problems are unique. Due to space shortage, land-filling sites are not sustainable. Residential colonies are in very close proximity to dumping grounds and sadly due to the high commercial activity, volume of waste generated is also high. So unfortunately, infections, poor sanitation conditions, potholes, pothole deaths, bad stench, flooding and waterlogs are all going to stay here with you this monsoon along with COVID-19. What every Mumbaikar needs to do is boost his own immunity and get in self-guarding mode as inevitably he is on his own.