Minor nullahs pose major issue in Mumbai | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Minor nullahs pose major issue in Mumbai

Expenditure worth crores on cleaning nullahs, and the civic body’s tall claims of monsoon preparedness go down the drain each time, as you find yourself stranded on water-logged roads and colonies year after year. Kunal Purohit reports.

mumbai Updated: Jun 07, 2013 00:54 IST
Kunal Purohit

Expenditure worth crores on cleaning nullahs, and the civic body’s tall claims of monsoon preparedness go down the drain each time, as you find yourself stranded on water-logged roads and colonies year after year.

A recent audit by a panel of six experts constituted by Hindustan Times gave the civic body’s monsoon-preparedness a poor 4 out of 10. A closer look at the civic body’s pre-monsoon cleaning system shows why this system is so ineffective.

First, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) concentrates all its time and resources in cleaning major nullahs (more than a metre-and-a-half wide), which, experts say, is problematic as focus should also be on smaller drains.

"The major nullahs have been adequately widened and deepened. Spending so much money on them every year is a waste because the local, roadside drains, which connect to minor nullahs and then major ones, are rarely cleaned," said Nandkumar Salvi, retired first chief engineer, storm water drains department.

Figures of the city’s drainage network put the problem into perspective. Of the total 3,095 km of drains, only 200 km comprise major nullahs, while the remaining 2,115 km are minor and roadside drains.

But while the major drains are looked after by the storm water drains department — a centrally-managed, well-funded department — the minor and roadside drains are left at the hands of local wards. Insiders say this ward-level management of work is flawed.

"Labourers are appointed and contracts given on man-day basis. They have to work for a particular amount of days, after which the contract ends, irrespective of whether the work has been completed or not," said a civic source.

If the connecting drains are not properly cleaned, the floodwater will never make it to the major nullahs, and hence will not find its way into the creeks. "You will never ever see a major nullah flooding during the rains, because floodwater never manages to reach them. The only way to correct such a flawed system is a complete overhaul," said Sameer Desai, a former Congress corporator.

Laxman Vhatkar, Director (Engineering Services & Projects) agreed ward-level cleaning was a problem. "But we have robust checks and balances for supervising cleaning of major nullahs."