Mumbai's monsoon preparedness: Up Mithi river without a paddle

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 11, 2015 17:27 IST

It has been 10 years since the deluge, but Mumbai is as vulnerable as it was in 2005. A lot still needs to be done, and time is running out for BMC.

Consider this. During the 26/7 floods, the Mithi river was unable to carry the rain water to the sea because of the silt and garbage clogging it. There seems to be little change today.

When HT’s panel of five experts visited the Mithi river stretch at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), they found it filled with silt and trash.

Year after year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) says that cleaning the Mithi river and widening it is top priority.

This year, it claims to have already finished 99% of the desilting work at Mithi. But this seems to be far from the truth.

“The civic body needs to find an organised approach to clean Mithi. While some stretches have been cleared, the contractor hasn’t bothered with the others,” said V Ranganathan, former municipal commissioner.

Poor de-silting of nullahs connecting to the Mithi river may further spell bad news for Mumbaiites.

The panel of experts was surprised with the civic body’s lackadaisical attitude of allowing the silt to be dumped near the nullahs. The silt will wash back into the drain in the first few showers, leaving the nullahs filthy and the roads water-logged, they said.

With the drains on the roads filled with garbage, there is no way for the storm water to flow out. This will result in flooding even if the nullahs are clean, they said.

“The concept of continuous desilting and removal of plastic and other garbage was proposed a few years ago, but it was not economically viable. The only way forward now is better supervision, effective implementation of nullah designs and following suggestions given by the Chitale committee,” said VK Pathak, former storm water drain engineer.

The panel observed other serious problems with the nullahs — from the size of the culverts, increasing encroachments and dumping of trash and debris.

“We put up signs outside the nullahs after they are cleaned stating that garbage should not be thrown and action will be taken against those who continue to do so. We have sent a proposal to the solid waste management department to install dustbins near the nullahs,” said Laxman Vhatkar, chief engineer, storm water drains department.

*** OVERALL RATING: 4.03/10

Mithi River, BKC
2015: 2.7/10
2014: 8.1/10

Various major and minor nullahs flow into the Mithi river; Vakola nullah meets the river at BKC junction. It is one of the most important rivers as its status will decide whether the western suburbs and some parts of central Mumbai will face flooding.

THE AUDIT FOUND: The civic body claims nearly 99% of the desilting work at the Mithi river is complete, but the BKC culvert was full of silt and garbage. The panel found certain obstructions leading to accumulation of silt ahead in the nullah. The stretch that flows through Bharat Nagar slum was full of trash.

WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “It seems no work was undertaken on this stretch. The BMC has removed silt only from the stretches that are visited by civic officials and politicians.”
~Raish Shaikh, corporator, SP


Dadar-Dharavi Nullah, Dharavi
2015: 4.8/10
2014: 6.5/10

It carries storm water from flood-prone areas of Matunga and Dharavi to Mithi river. The nullah needs to be desilted properly to avoid flooding in low-lying areas.

THE AUDIT FOUND: Even though the nullah has been desilted, the garbage has blocked the culverts, which may lead to flooding during heavy rain. Also, the encroachments on one side of the nullah are leading to continuous discharge of sewage in the nullah.

WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “The nullah has been desilted properly, but the trash at the culverts are a problem. The BMC needs to carry out regular and continuous inspection.”
~ Rajkumar Sharma, citizen activist


Behrampada Nullah, Bandra
2015: 5/10
2014: 5.6/10
This nullah carries storm water from areas in Bandra west. The nullah flows from Bandra east and connects to the Mithi river. It could lead to flooding if not cleaned properly.

THE AUDIT FOUND: Although it looked like the nullah had been desilted, a lot of garbage was found to be floating in the nullah, mainly because some slums share a wall with it. When the HT panel visited the spot, garbage and dyeing material were directly discharged in the nullah from the encroachments.

WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “As the area is heavily encroached, the nullah needs to be desilted and cleaned more often. Also, garbage is frequently thrown from the slums adjoining the nullah. The BMC needs to implement the Swachcha Mumbai Prabodhan Abhiyan for proper collection and disposal of trash from slums.”
~ V Ranganathan, former municipal commissioner


Kranti Nagar, Kurla:
2015: 3.8/10
2014: 6.8/10

This is a crucial stretch of the Mithi river as it passes through low-lying areas of Kurla and Kalina, after which it flows under the airport runway. If not cleaned, these high-population areas near the airport will flood.

THE AUDIT FOUND: Although the desilting work done in the nullah was satisfactory, trash was found to be floating in the nullah, which will pose a problem during rains. Also, the silt was dumped on the road and was yet to be cleared.

WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “The nullah is wide with good carrying capacity and is desilted well. It is a crucial nullah and the BMC should take care to ensure that it does not choke again by carrying out periodical cleaning.”
~ DK Pathak, former storm water drains engineer


Laxmibaug Nullah, Ghatkopar
2015: 3.4/10
2014: 6.6/10

The nullah flows below Ghatkopar Link Road and carries storm water from the Vikhroli and Ghatkopar areas. It further connects to the Thane creek.

THE AUDIT FOUND: One of the dirtiest nullahs visited by the panel, it seemed as if the civic body had done no work there. The poor cleaning of the connecting drains were a cause for concern, as they may lead to flooding in areas of Ghatkopar.

WHAT EXPERTS SAID: “It is a well-built nullah with good carrying capacity, but it looks like no desilting work has been done. The BMC needs to supervise the contractor and transport the silt immediately.”
~ SL Dhingra, former professor, IIT-Bombay



The BMC has become good at bluffing. There has been no tree trimming, minor road repairs and cleaning of drains. Despite the civic budget running in crores, the BMC is not able to provide manhole covers in Matunga, which are death traps for citizens.
~ Nikhil Desai, citizen activist from F-north ward

There are several places where the silt and garbage are lying on the road. Road work at many places is still to be finished. Many bad stretches have not even been taken up for repairs.
~ Vidya Vaidya, citizen activist, H-west ward

I am not happy with the pre-monsoon work. The authorities have removed the silt and dumped it on the road. It should be cleared within 2-3 days. What is the use of cleaning a nullah if the silt flow back during the rain? Also, hawkers are dumping trash in the drain.
~ GR Vora, citizen activist, F-north ward

The audit has shown that all the money spent on desilting and widening of nullahs has gone down the drain. Encroachments are a big problem near major nullahs and the civic body should shift all the hutments immediately.
~ Ashok Rawat, citizen activist, Shivaji Park

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