In the wake of the recent Chennai floods, civic chief Ajoy Mehta started preparing for a flood-free monsoon well in-time. But 10 years after the 2005 floods, has the city really learnt its lessons?
Ten years later, too, the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drains or the BRIMSTOWAD project is not even 50% complete. Of the 58 infrastructure works divided into two phases, only 27 have been completed so far. This could mean yet another year of chaos through the monsoon. The works include rehabilitation and augmentation of the underground British-era drains, construction of new drains, widening and deepening of nullahs, construction of access road to nullahs and storm-water pumping stations.
For a city that completely depends on stormwater drains for receding of rainwater, increasing the receding capacity of the drains is of utmost importance. The BMC claims to have finished 80% of the nullah widening and construction work.
Even though construction of pumping stations has got priority over all projects, only four of the eight pumping stations have been completed in the past 10 years. While two others are in progress, the remaining two are stuck owing to land acquisition issues.
The recommendations of the fact-finding committee included an increase in the capacity of drains from 25 mm an hour to 50 mm an hour. The effect of incomplete work was seen in June this year, when 280mm of rainfall managed to flood the city. Still, small drains, which constitute 93% of the drain network, and carry flood water from various localities to major drains (7%), continue to be neglected, causing localised flooding.
Historically, the project has suffered because of government neglect. First conceived in 1993, the project was to be completed in 12 years at an approximate cost of Rs600 crore. Instead, 12 years later, the delay proved fatal -- the city saw nearly 1,000 deaths in the deluge that struck Mumbai in 2005. A fact-finding committee was then formed to come up with remedial measures with a budget of Rs1,200 crore, which has now risen to Rs2,700 crore.