It was one more disastrous day of Mumbai monsoon. Potholes on the road claimed many lives and also caused lots of damage to people. Waterlogging incidents were reported at many places. People were driving and walking blindfold, and no one could guess where the divider is or where can be the pothole. Mumbai witnessed heavy downpour of nearly 300 mm of rain in some parts of the city – at least 10 times more than normal. Five people were killed, two house collapse incidents, a school crumpled leaving many kids wounded. Every year this is what gets repeated, our taxpayers’ hard earned money gets wasted, we keep voting for different options but nothing changes here.
By allowing Mumbai to go under water, the Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has shown its inefficiency once again. They are incapable of managing such a complex city. That the monsoon will see heavy rainfall days is known and the city ought to have been better prepared for it, as is reiterated every year. Shallow excuses about how the rainfall crossed a certain edge or citing the city’s geography as a reason for the annual chaos will no longer hold. One could argue exactly the opposite: because the city is a isthmus, edged in by the sea on two sides, a proper drainage system would have ensured that water does not accumulate in the very same spots, year after year. However, the reputation and efficiency of the country’s largest civic body housed in this building (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, BMC) is defeated when it fails to serve the city every monsoon.
BMC’s main effort towards resolving waterlogging and flooding problem in the city started after the incident of the heaviest rainfall of all time on 26th July 2005, when at least 1,058 people’s died in deluge, while 435 more lost their lives due to flood related diseases. Two years after that 2005 deluge, BMC formulated the Greater Mumbai disaster management action plan. However, all the projects in the plan progressed at snail’s pace over the last seven years, resulting in nothing but cost escalation of the project. A 2013 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General said that only 30 per cent of the work has been completed with cost escalations over Rs.2,708.89 cr.
Who so ever rules Mumbai, can’t save Mumbaikar from floods occurring during monsoon. 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 is the railway tracks, are few feet below the mean sea level (MSL) and that explains their submersion. 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 the slowest speed – the costs have escalated, and the pace is not improving.
BMC also initiated the Brihanmumbai Stormwater Drainage (BRIMSTOWAD) project, to upgrade the city’s 100-year-old drainage system and construct new pumping stations. This project was proposed and planned in 1985 but was not acted upon due to lack of funds till the 2005 flood, resulting in estimated cost to double from Rs. 600 cr to Rs. 1200 cr. This project is still running way behind schedule. Out of eight planned pumping stations, only four are ready after nine years of the BRIMSTOWAD project’s announcement. Two are still being constructed and the remaining two are still on paper. Meanwhile, delays in execution resulted an increase in the project cost to Rs.4,000cr from the initial Rs.1,200cr.
BMC, inspite of being the richest civic body in Asia with Rs 33,514 cr budget is accused of being unable to bring any relief to Mumbaikars. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the new Rs.116cr Love Grove pumping station and Rs.112cr Cleveland Bunder pumping station in Worli, on June, 17th last year. These pumps were supposed to ease waterlogging in areas like Worli, Prabhadevi, Mahalaxmi, Dadar etc, but just two days later during heavy downpour, they were found to be inadequate. Also, increasing the width of the drainage network, as per the plan, is still incomplete in most parts of Mumbai.
BMC also formed The Disaster Management Cell in 2005 to co-ordinate relief and rescue efforts, but the building for City Institute of Disaster Management (CIDM) awaited inauguration for years after its construction. In 2015 BMC budget, the civic body mostly presented the repeat of plans and promises that it could not implement in the previous year, for all major departments like roads and traffic, storm water drains, health, fire and education.
Regarding cleaning of drains or nullahs although BMC claimed to have unclogged all the drains, all low-lying areas were flooded again this year. There is a huge scam in the nullah cleaning work. Only the big nullahs appeared to be clean. Roadside drains and small nullahs were not cleaned at all. The BMC administration needs to clarify where the Rs150cr was spent.
It is clear that the civic body made many promises about improving the city’s infrastructure after the 2005 deluge but nothing has yet materialized. And, now 10 years after the 2005 rains, the havoc by current rains in Mumbai clearly exposed the fiasco of BMC’s action plan.
What is most concerning is that all the BMC’s initiatives and efforts are counter-reactive measures, like upgradation of its disaster management cell, setting up a monsoon website to guide citizens about traffic and water logging situation, installing dewatering pumps at flood-prone spots etc., instead of preventive measures. These measures often include forest and wetland restoration, which should be prioritized over the land grab that this city has become.
With patience running out in Mumbai’s population, it is high time for BMC to clean up its act and deliver on the promises that the people of Mumbai desperately deserve from their city. It is a routine requirement to be regularly 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 doesn’t get 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 usual practice.
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.
Inputs from various sources
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on email@example.com)