As even the slightest downpour floods many parts of Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to get tough with its contractors.
Penalty bills worth Rs 30 lakh have been sent so far to 50 contractors for doing a poor job of desilting nullahs. Contractors have been fined for not removing material floating on the nullahs, not dumping silt at the assigned locations and not being available to attend to complaints, among other things.
The BMC’s action follows the June 19 floods, when 285mm of rain — much less than the deluge of 2005 — brought the city to a screeching halt. Soon after, civic chief Ajoy Mehta ordered the re-cleaning of all major and minor nullahs, to be well-prepared for the next time it rains heavily. He had also initiated an inquiry.
“On our inspection rounds, we found the contractors were cutting corners, they were not displaying boards about the company name and scope of work, and were illegally disposing of the silt,” said LS Vhatkar, director of the BMC and also the head of the storm water drain department.
At least 50 contractors have faced the heat so far, and more could follow, sources said, as the inspection continues. Some of them were not present at sites where localised flooding took place, civic officials said.
“In some cases, their phones were also switched off. Action had to be initiated,” said an official.
But Vhatkar added that most of the contractors did a fair job. “The issue of nullahs clogging is also because of encrochments. People living along the nullahs continuously throw their garbage into the drains. However, penalising for shoddy work will continue till the monsoon ends.”
Citizen activists, however, said they have not found any change in the work quality. “Even after penalising them for shoddy work, the contractors continue to do poor quality work. Most manholes in Chembur and Govandi have been cleaned, but the silt removed has been kept near the mouth of the manhole. With light showers, the silt gets washed right back in. Continuous supervision and stringent action is required to ensure the work is done satisfactorily,” said Rajkumar Sharma, AGNI member.