The Deonar mess reeks of shoddy urban governance

  • Shailesh Gaikwad, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 05, 2016 17:05 IST
The Deonar mess has shown how solid waste management is still in the primitive stage in our city and how our civic governance is still stuck in the past. (Prashant Waydande)

There are no signs of the pocket fires at Deonar dumping ground stopping anytime soon. This also applies to the controversies over the issue.

Though concerns are being raised over the impact of dumping ground fires on the health of the people staying in the nearby areas, the civic body has made it clear that it does not have an immediate solution to the problem. And the long-term solution will take a very long time, which is to set up a garbage treatment facility outside Mumbai.

The Deonar mess has shown how solid waste management is still in the primitive stage in our city and how our civic governance is still stuck in the past. For more than a decade, we have been hearing about plans to dispose waste scientifically and setting up waste-to-energy plants but none of these have taken off so far.

For some reason, those running our civic bodies think starting a website and launching mobile applications is modern way of governing the cities. Little wonder, we still dump our garbage at dumping grounds the primitive way. We still have age-old pipelines from where hundreds of litres of drinking water leak out while being supplied. Our roads are still built in a way that one good spell of rain leaves them scores of potholes.

No matter how many hundreds of crores of rupees are spent on pre-monsoon works, our storm water drains get choked with three to four hours of rainfall.

In the age of GPS and satellite tracking systems, our civic officials say they are clueless about unauthorised structures being built and shanties springing up on public land. Our civic bodies don’t think it necessary to maintain open spaces for citizens. As a result the planning for the city goes for a toss.

We have been a witness to messy way in which our cities are being governed, for years, and there has been little improvement on this. No political parties can be absolved of the allegations of turning our cities in a mess. The real problem lies in the attitude of political parties. They consider the civic bodies as a tool to control politics and means of generating resources.

Every civic body has strong lobby of contractors, who influence the way the hefty budgets are spent. There is no audit of how the civic bodies function though every year they spend huge amounts of taxpayers’ money. The contractor-politicians-administration nexus is dominating our civic affairs. It does not matter which parties are in power. The way decisions are made in the standing committees, which control civic coffers, is the best example.

In past few months, Mumbai residents have seen witness to several malpractices and scams, the notable ones being the storm water drains desilting, road construction and garbage disposal scams.

The Shiv Sena and BJP are now levelling allegations against each other at every instance when the mess in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is exposed.

But then, weren’t these two parties running the BMC together for past two decades?

Everything seemed fine till recently. It is only now that the two parties are blaming each other for everything that is going wrong because they are planning to contest the 2017 civic polls separately and each wants to shift blame to the other partner.

One really doubts whether things would have been different had there been other parties in their place. None of them seem to have realised that governance of cities need to be changed with changing times. They might be talking about smart cities but in reality there is nothing smart in the way they are running our cities.

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