“Yes, we (still) want to be a Shanghai-like city. We want to turn Mumbai into an international city.”
That was Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, telling HT on Wednesday that despite the disruption of the last three days, his vision for Mumbai’s road ahead remains clear.
In support, he referred to an “in principle” Prime Ministerial clearance for what is now being touted by all his officials as a one-stroke solution to the city’s flooding: the complicated Rs 1,800-crore revamp of Mumbai’s 150-year-old storm-water drain system.
“The Centre is giving us Rs 200 crore for the Brimstowad (Brihanmumbai Storm-Water Drainage) project,” said Deshmukh. “The actual work will start in 2-3 months. It will take a few years to complete.”
So, how far away is the Shanghai road? “It is a long way off,” admitted Deshmukh, who argued that the clean-up of the Mithi river was the first “ground-level change” to stop flooding.
As Mumbai slowly grabbed at normalcy, it did seem this year’s response was much better: suburban trains were back on track — though not on schedule; traffic was flowing along by nightfall; and electricity and other utilities were working, save for some areas.
But it seemed clear that expectations have risen. As officials argued this was a “normal monsoon”, the city’s citizens and experts said “normal flooding” wouldn’t cut it any more in a city that aspires to be a world economic powerhouse.
“More than the rainfall intensity, it is about the deficiencies in the system tackling them,” said planning expert VK Phatak. “Our system shows up its problems even with about 200 mm rainfall.”
For the record, Mumbai received 485.8 mm of rainfall in the city and 613.7 mm in the suburbs over the last three days.
“Long-term systems must be implemented immediately to tackle yearly monsoon floods,” said former Chief Secretary V Ranganathan. He noted that officials have learned their lessons, but there was a lot more to learn in the short term: keep rivers and drains free of encroachments, improve garbage collection. “Civic officials must be on guard all the time, not just when disaster strikes,” he said.