Nullahs clogged, Mumbai not rain-ready yet: HT audit

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 07, 2016 18:15 IST
The Behrampada nullah in Bandra (East), where illegal settlements run parallel to the drain. (Praful Gangurde)

The civic body’s inquiry into the desilting scam, which unearthed the civic official-contractor nexus and resulted in blacklisting of some of the contractors, seems to have hit its pre-monsoon work.

With the monsoon barely a week away, Hindustan Times invited an expert panel to audit nine stormwater drains and six roads across the city. Their conclusion is the same as every year – with many nullahs yet to be thoroughly cleaned, the city is not rain-ready.

Even after floating tenders thrice, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was unable to appoint contractors for desilting projects in April. The contractors had asked for amounts higher than the estimated rates, and the tenders for cleaning minor nullahs did not receive any response.

This led to a delay in awarding contracts and thus incomplete work. Minor nullahs are now being cleaned by labourers from NGOs.

The panel comprising two former engineers with the civic body and two citizen activists visited nine nullahs (stormwater drains) and five roads at different locations in the city on June 3.They rated the monsoon preparedness work at 5.1 out of 10.

Why does the civic body suffer every year, even after spending crores on desilting? The expert panel blames it on lack of planning, lackadaisical attitude towards maintenance and concentration on big-ticket projects.

For instance, the BMC has, on several occasions, admitted how encroachments near nullahs make the cleaning work tough and maintaining cleanliness tougher. However, the illegal settlements continue to thrive, with some of the nullahs being completely blocked by slum dwellers.

A case in point could be the Behrampada nullah in Bandra (East), where illegal settlements run parallel to the nullah. There is no access route for desilting machines to reach the nullah. HT panelists rated it as the worst, with an embarrassing 2 out of 10. Two of the panelists scored it zero.

The civic body claims it has taken measures such as seeking assistance from the advanced locality management (ALM), awareness programmes and putting up posters to dissuade citizens from throwing garbage into the nullah. “We clean and desilt the nullah regularly, but within a day, it is choked with garbage,” said a civic official.

The civic body recently demolished 27 structures blocking the flow of Chamdawadi nullah in Bandra (East). After last year’s deluge, all deputy municipal commissioners and ward officers were given 10 days to carry out the cleanliness drive at all nullahs and were asked to continue with it throughout the monsoon.

However this year, the drive hardly took off and in a knee-jerk reaction the BMC may announce more such drives.

Referring to use the BMC Act, 1888 to solve these problems, DK Pathak, former storm water drain engineer, said, “There should be no settlements within 6m radius of these nullahs. If such settlements come up, the civic body has the right to demolish it.”

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