umbai, which comes in crisis during every monsoon, this time authorities have geared up towards enhancing 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 bureaucracy of the civic body is 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. With Praveen Pardeshi appointed as the new Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner, the civic body has geared up to tackle the monsoon of Mumbai.
BMC authorities would be paying special attention to dilapidated buildings, road and rail traffic, removing encroachments and security. The BMC has claimed this month they would be clearing 2.44 lakh tonnes of 3.49 lakh tonnes of the silt from major nullahs and 2.13 lakh tonnes of the 3.09 lakh 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 Westward) 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 stormwater drains, over a century old in the island part, have not been completely renewed through a big-ticket project, BRIMSTOWAD, is underway at snail’s pace – the costs have escalated, and the pace is not improving. 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 – nullahs 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 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 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 is 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 per cent 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 thermocol too 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 the 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 resident is a culprit too. He throws the garbage anywhere, but he is helpless as he is careless. Helpless 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. 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.