The city is not adequately prepared to face the monsoon, according to HT’s monsoon audit carried out by a panel of experts and citizen activists invited by HT.
The panel comprising two former engineers with the civic body and two citizen activists visited nine nullahs (storm water drains) and five roads at different locations in the city.
They rated the monsoon preparedness work an abysmal 5.1 out of 10. The panel found the efforts to prevent the flooding of the Mithi River, which affects several parts of the city during heavy rains, inadequate.
The desilting work in nullahs has not been completed, reveals the audit. Floating material as well as garbage was found in the drains at several places.
Relatively, the roads were found in a better condition though there is no guarantee that they won’t develop potholes with the first few spells of rains, the panel opined.
NOT A CLEAN SWEEP
There was a high tide during the panel’s visit on Friday, leading to a flow of water in some nullahs (storm water drains).
Five out of the nine nullahs that the panellists visited scored less than an average of five out of 10.
Most nullahs were filled with garbage and the desilting work was far from over, even a week after the deadline.
The BMC will be in a tough spot to deliver on its promise of a flood-free monsoon if the rains were to hit Mumbai soon, said the panelists
What the panel said: The panel said the reason for the city’s monsoon woes were not just shoddy work by contractors, but the desilting work being carried out only as a yearly pre-monsoon exercise and the slow progress in overhauling the storm water drain network.
The Mithi River stretch at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), where the HT panel visited, was not cleaned thoroughly with garbage and floating material covering the entire stretch.
During the last monsoon, too, the level of Mithi River had risen to the danger mark after a few downpours, creating panic among citizens.
Until May-end, the BMC had claimed to have completed 90% of the desilting work at most nullahs in the city. The budget provision for cleaning major nullahs, measuring around 252km across the city, is Rs110 crore.
“The concept to clean drains throughout the year and not just ahead of monsoon has been floated to BMC, but they have refused it on the ground of expense. The least the BMC can do is clean the drains thoroughly and maintain it later.”
J ames John, activist
The situation at the nine open drains and nullahs, which the expert panel visited, seemed better than last year. This comes in the backdrop of two major scams being unearthed in the BMC – in the storm water drains department and the roads department – where civic officials and contractors were accused of forgery, dubious intentions and shoddy work.
The perennial problems of encroachment along the nullahs like garbage being dumped in them, broken retaining walls among others continued to be a common sight at several locations.
What the panel said: A lot more needs to be done to ensure a flood-free monsoon – increased rounds of clean-up to clear floating garbage, removing illegal shanties around the nullahs, undertaking more measures to build retaining walls and widening nullahs, said the experts.
Civic officials, meanwhile, continued to defend the work, stating that the only time the city could witness trouble was if there was heavy rain during a high tide.
“The problem of encroachment needs immediate attention. The drains get choked because of the garbage thrown by people. They are used like an open dustbin.”
Nikhil Desai, activist
“The BMC has possibly undertaken all the measures to ensure better desilting work. However, cleanliness is again a collective responsibility.”
Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, in-charge of the storm water drains department
NOW, FOR THE MONSOON ROAD TEST
When HT’s expert panel, which assessed the city’s rain preparedness as part of the monsoon audit, visited five important link roads on June 3, they found the roads were in better condition compared to last year.
What the panel said: The experts pointed out that although most of the road work looked in a “safe stage”, dislodged paver blocks near junctions, unfilled or shoddily reinstated trenches and uneven patches slapped across roads were a matter of concern.
For instance, at Babashaeb Ambedkar road (Dadar stretch, Gandhi market area), which is one of the chronic flooding spots, the panelists found heaps of debris still lying unused below the flyover, blocking the smooth flow of traffic.
At VN Purav Marg, Chunabhatti, the panelists noticed loose paver blocks and uneven stretches.
“The repair work is in its last leg and BMC has done a good job. But the lack of post-work maintenance will cost them dear during the monsoon.”
James John, activist