15 years after 2005 deluge, city’s condition still same: Activists | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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15 years after 2005 deluge, city’s condition still same: Activists

By, Mumbai
Jul 25, 2020 11:42 PM IST

Fifteen years since unprecedented rainfall led to the floods of July 26, 2005 that claimed 1,094 lives, major recommendations made in 2006 by a fact-finding committee have still not been met, alleged environmentalists. While admitting more work needed to be done, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said 80% of all recommendations pertaining specifically to Mithi river under the storm water drains (SWD) department have been met.

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On Saturday, in a letter to chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray, city environmentalists said previous governments had not taken the recommendations of the Chitale committee seriously. The letter highlights 10 major recommendations that have not been acted upon, including separation of sewage from storm water; conservation of natural ecosystems including mangrove and wetland protection; reckless dumping of construction debris; integrating urban planning with extreme weather events; developing climate resilient infrastructure, banning development on river flood plains, creeks, conserving holding ponds; and increasing urban green zones. The letter has been signed by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) NatConnect Foundation, Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, Paramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti, and RiverMarch.

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“By highlighting the gaps in the Chitale Committee report, we have called for a comprehensive environment and urban development policy for Mumbai metropolitan region with a special focus on conserving natural ecosystems and developing a comprehensive rainwater harvesting plan,” said BN Kumar, director, NatConnect Foundation.

Additional municipal commissioner P Velarasu said, “Perennially flood prone areas are being tackled keeping extreme events in focus. Extra capacity margins have been decided for future projects so that we are able to handle a once in a 10-15 year weather event. This is being looked at by the SWD department as of now. It needs to be percolated into other departments also.”

Between July 26-27, 2005, Mumbai recorded 944.2 mm rainfall in 24 hours. Coming under strong criticism of flood-protection promises, the state had set up a fact-finding committee headed by Madhav Chitale to examine causes of the extreme weather event and suggest solutions. The then CM Sushil Kumar Shinde had said it was a “once-in-a-100-year” event and that no city could cope with this amount of rainfall.

“Owing to climate change, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are increasing. At a parallel level, faulty and inaccurate execution of existing recommendations are worsening the situation,” said environmentalist Debi Goenka.

“We are fairly in a better shape today,” said Velarasu adding, “From developing flood warning system, widening retention walls, nullahs, improving sewage network under the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal System (Brimstowad) project, and encroachment removal, are some of the major efforts done for Mithi. The same is being replicated for three other rivers. We need to make progress regarding widening and improving culverts below railway lines and crossings as immediate measures.”

Godfrey Pimenta, trustee of Watchdog Foundation, said, “Even after spending Rs 2,000 crore over 15 years, BMC has completed only 70% of the Brimstowad project till 2020. Paving of creek channels has altered the city’s hydrology. Contour mapping (topography) has not been done for decades.”

A Supreme Court-appointed committee in 2018 had highlighted that with large-scale urbanisation as well as encroachments and development in the Mithi river basin, a future flood similar to the deluge of July 2005 was inevitable. “Major suggestions of the Chitale committee were never implemented,” the committee had concluded.

Stalin D, director of the non-governmental organisation Vanashakti, alleged that the city continues to sees flooding, even if the rainfall isn’t extreme. “Mumbai will witness floods even if it rains over 250 mm in 24 hours,” he said. However, Velarasu said flood-prone areas are being tracked by the SWD department on an evolving basis. “Apart from 35-40 locations, the situation is much better. We have planned for 50-60 mm per hour but intense rain spells witnessed even this year were bound to lead to temporary waterlogging. Planning for extreme events every year has very high expenditure. Ultimately we have to see financial optimisation also,” he said.

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