After the July 2005 floods, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) publicly declared its intent to rid the city of flooding, one step at a time. Several projects were announced, including the revival of the ambitious Brimstowad project for a complete overhaul of the city’s drain network and proposal for eight pumping stations to pump out flood water.
Seven years later, only two pumping stations are ready, and only 15 of 58 Brimstowad projects are complete.
These, among other long-term measures for a permanent solution to flooding, have been brazenly ignored, but the civic body continues to spend crores every year for desilting nullahs.
The civic body’s approach to flood relief has been myopic – while it stepped up several short-term measures, such as upgrading its disaster management cell, installing dewatering pumps at flood-prone spots and setting up a monsoon website to guide citizens about traffic and water logging situation during rains, among others, the same urgency was not shown for the bigger picture.
Experts insist the BMC should have focused on a permanent solution. "The approach was to boost the disaster-control mechanisms and flood-control measures instead of flood prevention. There needs to be a sustained effort to speed up long-term projects," said SN Patankar, former chief engineer (storm water drains and roads). "A disaster similar to July 26 can still not be averted."
With regard to the Brimstowad project, originally mooted in the 1990s, work continues to progress at snail’s pace. And, of the six incomplete pumping stations, work on only two is underway, but at a dismal rate. Though notices were issued to the contractors appointed for slow progress of work on both, the civic body has failed to take stringent action against the contractors.
Civic officials, however, claimed that all possible efforts were being taken.
"We have imposed fines and sent notices but if we decide to terminate the contracts, we would have to begin the tendering process all over again. No decision has been taken towards that yet," said Laxman Vhatkar, chief engineer (storm water drains).