The BMC, which has spent Rs 1,000 crore to widen and deepen the Mithi river, is yet to complete the project nine years after it began. On Friday, when the river came dangerously close to overflowing, BMC officials pressed the panic button and rescue teams from the navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were put on standby.
The last time the river overflowed and wreaked havoc was on July 26, 2005. The widening and deepening project was announced in response to that disaster, but almost a decade later, Mumbai remains at the river’s mercy.
On Friday, the river’s level touched 2.54 metres, dangerously close to the 2.7-metre overflow mark, according to a BMC official. Because of the heavy rain, its level did not recede even during the low tide, he said.
Another civic official, who did not wish to be named, said, “Had the level of the Mithi river risen any more on Friday, there could have been an emergency situation, for which we had NDRF and navy personnel on standby. We had almost begun evacuations as 40-odd families were at risk.”
The Mithi river project was suggested by the Chitale Committee, appointed after the 2005 deluge. Following this, the BMC Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) came up with a Rs1,650-crore plan to deepen, widen and de-silt the 17.8-km river, and build bridges across it.
But nine years later, residents of 1,590 houses along the river are yet to be relocated, and a six-kilometre stretch of the retaining wall is yet to be built.
LS Vhatkar, chief engineer, storm water drains, said, “The water level had risen considerably on Friday. However, as the majority of work has been completed, the level came down by Friday night. About 95% of work on the river has been completed so far, and the tender to build two bridges will be processed by next month.”