Mumbai’s floods and the political establishment

  • Shailesh Gaikwad, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2015 18:50 IST

It was a coincidence but quite ironical: Mumbai came to a standstill as several parts of the city were flooded following heavy rain on June 19— the foundation day of Shiv Sena, the party that has been ruling the civic body f or over t wo decades.

In fact, the situation in the city was so bad that the Sena had to cancel its f oundation day celebrations on Friday.

As it is facing the flak for the mess on Friday, the Sena is defending itself saying that the situation would have been worse had there been no pre-monsoon work done, as alleged.

The city received 20% of the season’s rainfall in just 24 hours, which was difficult to handle, considering the existing capacity of the city’s stor m water drain system, it pointed out.

Its l eaders have al s o been pointing fingers at successive state gover nments that have had the right t o decide t he vert i cal g rowth in t he city and build infrastructure projects such as metros, freeway s and flyove r bridges.

The arguments made by the Sena in its defence h av e some substance, but still , if t his city is in a mess, the Sena can’t escape responsibility. And, for that matter, neither can the BJP—which is now trying to distance itself from the controversy—as it has been the Sena’s partner in power for two decades.

As Mumbai was s ub-merged following almost a collapse of the city’s storm water drains f or hours, there were questions as to why the situation became so bad in the city.

The reasons are there for everyone to see.

It begins with the civic body’s preparedness for the monsoon.

Whether it is de-silting the drains or repairing the roads, the system is driven by t he contractors who often call the shots.

No political party has been able t o break t he system that puts lives of citizens at danger.

Further, over the past decade, as the city went more and more vertical, neither the civic body nor the state government bothered to rebuild the civic infrastructure to handle such growth.

The result was more visi ble i n central Mumbai, where textile mills made way for commercial and residential skyscrapers. Several areas surrounding these towers saw knee-deep water, bringing the activities in this emerging commercial hub to a halt last Friday.

The city has a development plan and a (controversial) new one is in the making but the provisions of the DP are hardly foll owed by the civic body. More than half the provisions in the DP remain on paper and nobody bothers to take them seriously.

The open spaces, water bodies as well as mangroves. in the city help contain flood water in case of heavy rainfall. Over the past few years, the civic body looked the other way as open spaces and mang roves were encroached upon and water bodies vanished. In fact, the civic body never seemed keen to protect them.

With this kind of approach and attitude, was it a wonder that the city witnessed a messy Friday?

As usual, the usual blame-game has begun, but Mumbaikars are not interested in the political mudslinging.

They want a better city and it will be in the interest of politicians to stop taking people for granted. They should keep in mind that citizens in Delhi went to the extent of voting for a new outfit like Aam Aadmi Party when they were disillusioned with established parties.

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