The never-ending saga of Mumbai's monsoon mayhem

  • Shailesh Gaikwad, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
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  • Updated: Jun 18, 2013 12:12 IST

As expected, the first proper spell of monsoon turned Mumbai into Venice.

What happened over past few days was something we are familiar with: Several parts of the city were flooded, trains stopped, cars were stuck in traffic jams, buses disappeared, auto and taxi drivers refusing fares or asking 50 times the tariff to ferry passengers and even worse, and no communication from the authorities.

Mumbai's civic body, which has a budget and administrative set-up equivalent to that of a small state government, failed to keep the city flood-free, yet again.

Every year, it spends more than Rs. 100 crore on pre-monsoon preparedness and filling potholes. One look at the city and anybody can guess what happened to that money, which is also the case almost every year.

Over the past three-four days, almost every Mumbaiite has probably been asking the same question: Why is the situation not improving?

Is it really difficult to ensure that the city does not get flooded every time it rains? And to build roads that survive at least one monsoon?

Going by the way political parties and bureaucrats are reacting to the current situation, there seem to be little scope for improvement.

The top brass in the state government has not shown much concern over the way the situation was handled by the civic body or government agencies.

The leadership of the Shiv Sena-BJP (who run the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) spends more time blaming the state-run Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority for every problem in the city instead of looking into the civic body's functioning.

While the media and citizen groups were pointing out the lack of preparedness of the BMC just a few days before the monsoon arrived, the Sena-BJP leadership was busy making plans to take back the land given to the turf club and develop a public park on racecourse land at Mahalaxmi.

As far as the top brass in the state administration is concerned, the less said the better. Nobody in Mantralaya has managed to figure out what exactly have they been doing—even though some of the top officers stay in their Mantralaya cabins till midnight, almost every day.

Experts point out that the patchwork job done every year is not helping.

Over past two decades, many areas in the city have been rebuilt with skyscrapers replacing old colonies or defunct factories. While allowing this 'development', civic and state officials didn't bother to ensure that natural drains (nullahs) weren't affected.

Basic necessities such as storm water dispersal systems were not given much importance while building residential and commercial projects or big-buck infrastructure projects that complemented the former.

No-development zones or open spaces that are essential to contain flood water are considered as unwanted elements in the city's development as indicated by thousands of 'errors' found in city's land use map.

Mumbaiites are paying the price for haphazard development facilitated by the greedy nexus of builders, politicians and bureaucrats.

And it could only get worse in the days to come.


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