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Desilting to roads, giving city a safe monsoon is our priority: Mumbai civic body’s new chief

HT spoke to municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi about his plans and challenges

mumbai Updated: May 13, 2019 23:50 IST
Eeshanpriya MS
Eeshanpriya MS
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BMC,Ajoy Mehta
Outgoing BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta (left) hands over charge to Praveen Pardeshi on Monday. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Praveen Pardeshi, the city’s new municipal commissioner who took charge from Ajoy Mehta on Monday morning, talks to HT about his plans and challenges.

You have taken charge at a time when the city is getting ready for the monsoon. Citizens are wary that the city may witness flooding and their routine may get affected.

My priority is to ensure the monsoon does not disrupt the city and people’s routines. Desilting stormwater drains needs to be completed on priority. At chronic flooding spots, we are taking necessary precautions, with focus on implementation of action plans to prevent waterlogging. Our disaster management system is connected to CCTV cameras across the city. We presently use this system reactively, which is great, but we also need to use it for disaster prevention. I intend to use the network to ensure Mumbai has a safe monsoon. I also intend to include people’s suggestions in our action plan, as citizens face the monsoon, and hence know the problems better. Apart from this, there are long-term measures such as desilting of Mithi River, which has specific problems like slum encroachments lining its banks. Such problems need specific solutions. We will make sure they are executed aptly.

Every monsoon, Mumbai sees potholes on roads. What measures do you plan to ensure this does not recur?

Monsoon do not mean bad roads and potholes. We need to ensure our drains are strong. If there is sustained waterlogging in any area, roads are likely to develop potholes. The BMC also plans to restart the online pothole tracking system, where citizens can complain to the civic body directly about potholes.

What will be your approach towards action against corruption in the BMC? We saw roads and desilting scams in the civic body…

I will continue with my predecessor Ajoy Mehta’s methods while addressing such issues in my tenure. This is also the government’s official approach towards all scams. If anybody within the BMC is guilty, he ought to be punished. We can’t overlook such things. But at the same time, I will not be unfair to my officers. Unjust action will not be taken against anyone. I don’t think BMC engineers are to blame for every error.

Three engineers have been arrested in the partial collapse of the Himalaya Bridge at CSMT...

The partial collapse of the Himalaya Bridge was tragic. Many Mumbaiites lost their lives. We need to come up with a long-term solution to ensure such incidents don’t occur again. If any official is found guilty or negligent, action needs to be taken against them, or else negligence will continue. I will make sure unjust action is not taken against anyone. If there is culpability, there will be action. But random action can’t be justified. In this case, the number of inspections that were to be done have not been done, which can be termed as negligence. This action is a wake-up call for engineers.

Coastal road is a very important project for the BMC, which will now come under your purview.

Mumbai’s coastal road project has been planned for many years now, and will solve the city’s traffic problem. However, there were environmental concerns surrounding the project. In the past three or four years, the Centre, with follow-ups from the state, made sure the coastal road received environment clearance under the Environment Protection Act. I will make sure the environment and fishermen’s livelihoods are not affected in any way. We have to educate people about these studies, and the precautions, and address the concerns about adverse impact of coastal road on the sea’s biodiversity or livelihood of fishermen. We also have mitigation provisions in the project.

What are your plans for implementation of the Development Plan 2034?

This document has been made after a massive consultative process. The ownership of the Development Plan rests with Mumbai’s citizens. It was an extremely democratic process. All suggestions and objections were seriously considered, and some were accepted. Implementing the Development plan is our priority.

How will you deal with BEST’s financial crisis?

Public transport, worldwide, is not a profitable venture. Just like defence or keeping the environment clean, the state, or in this case the municipal corporation, has to subsidise public transport. I will look into making BEST more efficient so that it can recover is losses (BEST makes upto 1000 crore of losses per year), by improving connectivity to routes such as the upcoming Metro network. This will make BEST more viable. As far as bailing BEST out of financial crisis with a loan from the BMC is concerned, I will have to study the issue thoroughly. I will also discuss the issue with the general body and standing committee, before taking a decision.

What are the challenges for Mumbai?

Mumbai is India’s commercial capital, which means India’s entire commercial development is dependent on this city. This is a challenging position. My priority is to study the issues in the BMC and understand them in-depth. Once I have understood the issues, I will interact with public representatives and deal with the city’s problems. We need to get to the root of the city’s issues. For example, Mumbai needs cleaner air, but for that we need to move towards using public transport, instead of private vehicles. People are bound to use private vehicles, if public transport such as suburban trains is full. The state government’s initiative to start the Metro is a step in this direction, and we need to support it. The municipal corporation’s efforts to connect bus routes with Metro stations will help. Having alternatives such as the coastal road should help. The sea of Mumbai is polluted. The sewage comes back in our food chain through the fish. We need to ensure we treat 80-90% of the sewage water. Focusing on solid waste management, and recycling our waste, not just treating it, will be a priority. DP implementation is also crucial. One of the main tasks through the DP is creating more jobs in the city. Jobs creation in the service sector needs to keep pace with the demand. The next priority is affordable housing.

First Published: May 13, 2019 23:48 IST