The BMC never fails to disappoint, especially when it comes to Mumbai's monsoon readiness.
An audit of 10 major and minor nullahs and five major roads carried out by a panel of five experts formed by HT has rated the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) preparedness at a mere 4.03 on a scale of 10.
The panel — comprising former state chief secretary V Ranganathan, adjunct civil engineering professor from IIT-Bombay SL Dhingra, retired civic engineer DK Pathak, corporator Rais Shaikh and citizen activist Rajkumar Sharma — found that not only is the annual work of cleaning nullahs in the city far from over, it is worse than the previous year.
With the rains just a few days away, the panel was surprised to see silt and trash floating in the Mithi river. They were even more taken aback by the condition of the storm water drains, which are yet to be cleaned.
“There will be more complaints of water-logging this year,” they said, pointing out to the shoddy work and poor supervision of the pre-monsoon work.
Sunday’s brief showers were proof that the city was not ready for the rains, with complaints of flooding in central Mumbai and the Hindmata junction.
Although the BMC claims it has completed more than 95% of the desilting work and removed more than 3.40 lakh cubic metre of silt, eight of the 10 nullahs audited by the panel did not score more than 4 out of 10.
“The condition of the nullahs is pitiable. The audit has opened our eyes to the BMC’s shoddy work. Water-logging will be a major problem, as there seems to be very little effort taken this year,” said Ranganathan.
Rise in encroachments, mechanised desilting equipment lying unused, broken retaining walls and throwing of trash in nullahs have increased over the years, the experts said. “The problem of encroachments needs immediate attention. The drains are choked because of the garbage being dumped inside. The course of the nullahs has also changed because of the squatters,” said Pathak.
Every year, the civic body spends about Rs90 crore on cleaning 320km of major nullahs and 420km of minor nullahs, along with 17.8km of Mithi river, before monsoon.
Civic officials insisted that the work was being done. “We have been carrying out desilting work on a regular basis, but haven’t been able to stop people from throwing waste in the nullahs. The removal of floating material is done even during the rains. Broken retaining walls will be taken up on priority basis,” said Laxman Vhatkar, chief engineer, storm water drains department.
While the arterial roads are in a better condition, the panel says they will be filled with potholes within the first few weeks of monsoon. “The quality of the road work is inferior and potholes are likely to emerge after a few showers,” said Dhingra.
** Rafiq Nagar nullah, Govandi:
A major nullah in the eastern suburbs, it carries storm water from Govandi, Mankhurd, Chembur and Ghatkopar. Running parallel to the Deonar dumping ground, the nullah connects to the Thane creek. If not desilted properly, it can cause flooding in Shivaji Nagar, Mankhurd and Chembur.
THE AUDIT FOUND: Though locals said the civic body had carried out desilting work last week, trash and silt was found in huge quantities in the nullah. The retaining walls were broken and encroachments along the nullah had increased. This resulted in narrowing of the nullah, thereby changing its course.
WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “As it is a vast slum area, the nullah needs to be cleaned and desilted more often. Some desilting work seems to have been done, but it is not enough.”
~ Rajkumar Sharma, citizen activist.
** Gobar nullah, near Milan Subway, Santacruz (East):
Rating: 2015: 0.9/10
The nullah runs along the Milan subway, which is a crucial east-west link connecting SV Road to the Western Express Highway. If not cleaned properly, the nullah overflows during the rains and floods the subway.
THE AUDIT FOUND: The nullah was overflowing with silt, mud and cow dung. The civic body seems have to done no work, as garbage was dumped on both sides of the nullah.
WHAT EXPERTS SAID: "It looks like no work has been done here. Residents and commuters will face a tough time this monsoon.”
~DK Pathak, retired storm water drains engineer
** Dharavi box drains
Rating: 2015: 3.1/10
These drains provide a crucial outlet to minor drains in Dharavi and Sion into the Mithi river. They connect to the Mithi river in the north and can cause flooding primarily in Dharavi, if not desilted properly.
THE AUDIT FOUND: The mouths of the box drains were blocked with silt and garbage. The panel found that they can only be cleaned manually. The flow of the water was partly obstructed because of the trash.
WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “There are challenges to desilt the box drains and the BMC has not found a solution. The drains have not been cleaned and garbage is blocking the flow of water.”
~ V Ranganathan, former municipal commissioner
** Subhash Nagar nullah, Mankhurd
Rating: 2015: 3/10
Flowing below the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road, this nullah carries storm water from areas of Bhakti Park in Wadala, Chembur and Chunabhatti. It connects to the Thane Creek. It is joined by another major nullah carrying water from Vikhroli and Ghatkopar.
THE AUDIT FOUND: Although it is a major nullah, it did not look like the civic body had carried out any work. With no proper retaining walls, sand and debris were dumped at the sides of the nullah.
WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “In the first few showers, the sand and debris will end up in the nullah and will add to the poor desilting work done by the BMC. The nullah has also become narrow because of encroachments.”
~Rais Shaikh, corporator, Samajwadi Party
** Rasraj nullah, Vile Parle (West)
Rating: 2015: 3/10
This nullah flows from Vile Parle and connects to drains in Andheri and Juhu. It could lead to localised flooding if not cleaned properly.
THE AUDIT FOUND: Large swathes of silt and floating material were found in the nullah. Garbage dumped outside was yet to be cleared and encroachments, too, posed a danger.
WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “Heavy silt and floating material was found at the nullah. The work done at the spot is extremely poor and needs urgent cleaning before monsoon.”
~ SL Dhingra, former professor, IIT-Bombay