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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Getting better, quicker: Mumbai civic body plans response to disasters

mumbai Updated: Sep 28, 2019 00:18 IST
Sagar Pillai
Sagar Pillai

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has prepared a five-point disaster response plan with standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed in case of five types of disasters, namely cyclones, landslides, structural collapses, fires in high-rise buildings, and flooding. The civic body is now collecting data from local wards to ascertain disaster-prone areas, the estimated number of people to be evacuated and ownership of structures in addition to carrying out detail studies of flooding spots and an update of fire compliance among high-rise structures.

A circular regarding this new disaster response plan was issued by municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi on August 31. Ward officers have been directed to provide the data within a month. A BMC official said the SOP allows decentralisation of powers to local wards in case of emergencies. Pardeshi said all the data is being mapped on the geographical information system (GIS). “We have a GIS data base of all existing land use and existing geographical features like rivers, hills and slopes. Further, we are developing a hazard map based on fire, landslides and frequent flood spots. On the GIS, we are imposing necessary response and mitigation measures, like flood -safe zones among others,” said the civic body chief.

One of the challenges faced by authorities has been lack of coordination in case of a disaster. A senior civic official requesting anonymity said, “There have been instances where there has been confusion over jurisdiction between two government bodies during a disaster. A lot of time is wasted in defining jurisdiction and we need such crucial information handy to mobilise relief measures. This plan aims to empower local disaster management cells in all 24 civic wards.”

For instance, after Gokhale bridge collapsed in July 2018, both the BMC and Railways went back and forth, with neither agency admitting that the maintenance of the foot overbridge was their responsibility. The Railways said the BMC owned the bridge while the BMC alleged that the maintenance was the Railways’ responsibility. Similarly, a blame game between the BMC and Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) had followed the collapse of a building in Bhendi Bazaar, killing 33, in 2017. The reconstruction of Hancock Bridge, which was demolished in 2016 and work on which was delayed till 2018 due to lack of coordination between Central Railway and the BMC, is another example.

First Published: Sep 28, 2019 00:18 IST

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