May 31 was the deadline for making Mumbai monsoon-ready. All road repairs, desilting of nullahs, cleaning of stormwater drains, etc, were to have ended by then.
Two days after the deadline, however, when a Hindustan Times panel of four experts visited 10 flood-prone spots, they found that only 60 per cent of the work was complete.
Monsoon 2010 may present again the age-old problems Mumbai has faced — flooding, traffic jams, train disruptions.
If it rains for than 50 mm an hour, Mumbai will certainly get flooded as the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drain (Brimstowad) project, aimed at raising the rain-handling capacity of the drains is behind schedule. Work on cleaning of nullahs has not even begun at many places — of the 10 spots the expert panel visited, work had not begun at four.
For instance, Majjas Nullah in Jogeshwari (East) has not been cleaned and widened. Two buildings have encroached upon the nullah, decreasing its width drastically.
“We are not even halfway there. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has done a pathetic job,” said V. Ranganathan, former chief secretary and municipal commissioner.
These observations contradict the BMC claim. Municipal Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya had on Tuesday said 95 per cent of the drain-cleaning work was complete and that this year’s monsoon would be hassle-free. On Thursday, when confronted with the findings of the Hindustan Times audit, Additional Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta said: “Our officials say 90 to 95 per cent of the work is complete. But, we will take the audit as feedback and check again. If necessary, we will clean the drains again.”
The reality is clearly different from Kshatriya’s claim. Gobar Nullah at Santacruz is a classic example. A stretch near the Western Express Highway was cleaned as it was visited by Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray. The part near Milan Subway was neglected.
“Dung from nearby cowsheds is dumped in the nullah every day. The cowsheds need to be shifted out of the city, but that’s not done due to lack of political will,” said Vidya Vaidya, a member of the H-West Ward Citizens’ trust and Citispace, a non-governmental organisation working on urban land issues.
The moderate preparation and tussles between agencies mean that projects are pending or incomplete.
The only relief is the commissioning of two pumping stations — at Irla and Haji Ali respectively — that will quicken the receding of flood waters.