Every Mumbaikar comes across an unpleasant experience in the 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 its 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 COVID-19.
The compounding is by the garbage that chokes the escape paths. 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 held 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 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 solid waste management.
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 is 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.
20 per cent of the city’s garbage is plastic, which means 1300 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 thermocol 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 the use of plastic and encourage a 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 tonnes 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. Walkthrough 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 casual about it, till the city is disrupted. But this time you may see some positive changes and very prompt resolutions to make Mumbai safe during the monsoon. Like human beings, concrete structures also have limited lifespans, ranging from 50 to 100 years, depending upon the type of structure, the climate of the place, and how it has been maintained. Once the building is constructed, it needs regular care and maintenance of – cracks, seepage, ageing plastered.
Especially in Mumbai, as the climate is humid most part of the year, there’s the tendency of corrosion of reinforcement used in the building – if it is exposed through a crack, or maybe some end of reinforcement is left for further construction in later stage, or maybe use of some fasteners in balconies to fix the grill/railing in concrete.
As very well known that – for rust/corrosion only 3 ingredients are required – air, sunlight and water. Such a combination is always available in Mumbai; therefore, due to lack of maintenance, the lifespan of such buildings is reduced, Lack of proper and adequate maintenance, Non-use of water-resistant techniques, If Venice was in Mumbai, almost all of its buildings would have collapsed sooner or later. Corruption in the municipalities & authorities, corrupt construction practices by the contractors & builders.
Many times these are stand-alone buildings in congested areas and hence redevelopment is not an attractive business for developers / builders. It is also observed that ground floors are converted into shops and first and/or other floors are also used as offices/godowns for nearby shops. Tenants and also these commercial entities carry out the modifications or loading the floors with furniture and newly built additional partitions, sometimes toilets etc. It is also experienced that people just remove the columns for their own interior purpose that makes the building crumble.
Many times – these buildings are built on weak foundations without following proper designs / standards / approvals / permissions. Depending on the opportunities – these land mafias raise multi-storey buildings within a few months and use substandard materials. If they see a chance/opportunity to raise more floors – they just go ahead without taking into consideration the capacity of the foundation laid, Structural designs of lower floors/soil bearing capacity etc. This leads to the weakening of buildings and ultimate collapse. There is no point in writing and debating the same thing again and again, because nothing is going to change here. Next year we would be talking about these old buildings and the monsoon crises.