Recent Mumbai rains caused lot of loss to human lives and properties while bringing the normal life to a standstill. Losses are unavoidable during heavy rains, but swift rescue and relief are the primary indicators of a good government. These words intend to normalise a human-made disaster and gloss over the pathology of urban development under successive administrations. It is quite usual for politicians and civic officials to blame so-called unprecedented rains for the civic and humanitarian crisis that each monsoon brings, and decouple development from disaster. But unprecedented rains are quite regular in Mumbai monsoons. Being city on the high-energy coast facing the Arabian Sea, Mumbai faces high tides that make the matter worst in particular.
Mumbai is no stranger to heavy rains and high tides. It has experienced heavy rains roughly once every 10 -12 years and the last one in 2005 that caused a havoc and people suffered the most. Mumbai rains this time was only 315.8 mm in 12 hours as compared to 644 mm that poured in 12 hours on 26th July 2005. It shows that our state government and BMC are unrehearsed. The false promises of rain readiness broke the cover and the disaster management failed as there is no such working force to act at the time of floods. Even in 2005, Mithi river overflowed its banks and invaded airport and the Air-India quarters at Santa Cruz. But those were the days when Mumbai was derided for being an overgrown and underdeveloped aspirant to metropolitan status.
Mumbai has a host of expensive infrastructure aimed at ushering in a Commercial capital boom. Expressways, highways, sub-ways and bypass roads have been constructed with no mind to the tendency of water to flow or have a proper lighting system. Places like Lower Parel, Dadar and Sion submerge in water most of the time paralyzing the normal life and it is survival of the fittest if we enter into pool of rain water. There is no proper storm water management and the drainage slits are not cleaned up periodically or at least before the start of monsoon season. As a matter of fact, there is not proper drainage system in many areas surrounding the city. Adding fuel to the fire, the Metro project and the flyovers constructed in prime localities made a mess of the situation during this monsoon.
With every invitation to make Mumbai, a smart city, the Metro is eroding its resilience to normal monsoon weather events. The infrastructure of big commerce has replaced the infrastructure to withstand natural shocks. The 2017 disaster was not avoidable. It was a direct consequence of decisions pushed for vested interests and conceded by town planners, bureaucrats and politicians in the face of wiser counsel. The political rivalries caused among the parties misunderstand and disrupt meaningful development to the city. At this rate we will come across such disasters in future also as we face global warming leading to an unprecedented rains and climatic changes in the city. Mumbai city will suffer for ever then.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)