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BMC records 37% drop in silt removed from Mumbai’s nullahs in past 5 years

Mumbai city news: This raises the question whether the contractor-bureaucrat-politician nexus inflated the quantity of silt removed from the drains and the amount of money paid to the contractors

mumbai Updated: Jul 05, 2017 00:46 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
BMC,Nullahs,Mithi River
In 2015, a scam was uncovered where officials were seen approving bogus bills and manipulating records in desilting undertaken in the city’s major nullahs and Mithi river (above).

In the past five years, the amount of silt removed from major drains in the city has gone down by 37% or 3 lakh metric tonnes, data from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) revealed.

The numbers tell a story: In 2013, the BMC desilted 7.03 lakh metric tonnes of silt from the major nullahs (drains) and the Mithi river at a cost of around Rs200 crore.

In 2015, a scam was uncovered where officials were seen approving bogus bills and manipulating records in desilting work.

The after-effect: In 2017, 4.40 lakh metric tonnes of silt was removed from the drains at a cost of around Rs80 crore.

The numbers show a gradual decline in the quantity of silt removed from the nullahs in the city at a much lower cost. This raises the question whether the contractor-bureaucrat-politician nexus inflated the quantity of silt removed from the drains and the amounts paid to the contractors.

In five years, the number of slums hasn’t reduced and there haven’t been any signs of a reduction in natural sediments being deposited on the riverbed, said experts. So why the decline?

Officials and experts together said the figures had indeed been inflated and the mechanism to verify contractors was also shoddy.

Civic officials didn’t want to comment as the investigation in the desilting scam is still going on. A senior civic official, on condition of anonymity, said, “After 2015, the major reform was that we began measuring silt by its weight and not volume. The latter resulted in a major escalation of cost. We also initiated stricter vigilance by which the bills submitted by contractors were scrutinised before being approved. For better transparency, real-time monitoring of vehicles was made stricter by connecting it to the BMC’s main server.”

However, officials said desilting will remain a costly affair every year. Till date, scores of hutments are parked on major nullahs stretching to 261.52 kms in the city. A fact-finding committee set-up post the 2005-deluge has recommended that there be no encroachments in and around six metres from any nullah in the city, which, as HT had pointed out in its monsoon audit, is not followed in any part of the city.

DK Phatak, a former storm water drains engineer said, “Until the time the slums are not rehabilitated and people do not use the nullah as a dumping ground, desilting is going to be a costly affair for the city.”

Read more:
HT Monsoon audit: Six months, ₹440 crore later, Mumbai is still not fully rain-ready

First Published: Jul 05, 2017 00:46 IST