Old timers and city historians have blamed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the frequent pipeline bursts saying the civic body had forgotten a fool-proof and traditional method of regular maintenance used by the British.
According to the historians, when the British begun laying the pipelines in the mid-1850s, they had also laid a network of narrow gauge rail tracks and a small rail vehicle parallel to the pipeline network for its regular maintenance and upkeep.
Today, the rail lines are either buried or pulled out and sold as scrap, while the rail vehicles and locomotives languish at BMC’s pumping station at Ghatkopar.
“I have seen that small train. It used to run all the way along the Nashik Road. But the tracks vanished slowly and slums took over and complications begun” says an old time Mulund resident 54 year-old Dilip Damodia.
City historian Deepak Rao, who had researched for a book titled ‘Mumbai’s Water’ and published it for the BMC, said it was not just rail tracks, but outside the city limits, there were dedicated horsemen who used to ride along the pipes for their regular maintenance.
Vishawanath Iyer (60) from Chembur said: “The engine and wagons used to the run very slowly and used to carry all the necessary tools and the staff required. You can still see the line at places such as Ghatkopar and Andheri. The network is today lost and forgotten.”
A retired civic official said, “The train rail network running parallel to the pipelines was helpful in maintaining every inch of the pipe and its details could be checked without any hindrance. But it became difficult to maintain them and since the tracks have now been uprooted, this particular maintenance exercise has been shelved. But I do agree that regular and sustained maintenance in this manner would have helped BMC to identify the pipes that have become brittle,” he adds.
BMC’s chief hydraulic engineer Vinay Deshpande said the reason the pipelines were bursting due to various reasons, including water pressure and old age.