HT monsoon audit: BMC had 2 months, ₹89 cr to clean drains, prevent Mumbai floods, did it succeed?
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HT monsoon audit: BMC had 2 months, ₹89 cr to clean drains, prevent Mumbai floods, did it succeed?

Mumbai city news: Every year, the BMC spends crores in just two months to clean nullahs, across the city

mumbai Updated: Jun 09, 2017 13:35 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,Mumbai monsoon,HT monsoon audit
The Kranti Nagar nullah flows right under the airport runway. (Praful Gangurde)

A storm water drain ideally carries excess water that runs off the roads during rains to the sea.

But this is what Mumbai’s storm water drains are — stinking gutters clogged with tonnes of the city’s waste.

Every year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) spends crores in just two months to clean these drains, or nullahs, across the city. This year, it will spend Rs89 crore on the exercise. Why? Because neglecting them would submerge Mumbai — the deluge of 2005 that killed more than 500 is a constant reminder. Then why not keep them clean all year round, asks HT’s annual monsoon survey.

How clean are the drains?

The BMC, according to data released on Tuesday, had finished 94.31% of desilting work as of June 4. But HT’s audit of nullahs found the BMC had a long way to go, even six days after its own deadline. And this spells trouble. Clogged drains have little space to hold water — and are thus more prone to flood and overflow.

READ: Mumbai is at Mithi’s mercy, again

Why keep it clean?

First, it will keep a check on encroachments. Major nullahs run 291km across the length and breadth of the city, and most of them are lined with slums. These homes not only connect their sewer lines into the drains, but also treat them like mini-dumpyards. According to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, no structures can come up within 6 metres of nullahs. But in areas such as Rafiq Nagar in Govandi, nullahs flow right under slums. Worse still is the Kranti Nagar nullah that flows right under the airport runway. If this floods, the consequences could be disastrous. Second, the choked, filthy nullahs are also breeding grounds for pests that spread malaria, dengue and skin and respiratory ailments .

READ: In pics: Will Mumbai flood this monsoon? HT’s audit finds out

Problem with process

There is a problem with the way nullahs are cleaned too, the panel said. It is a last-minute job and the silt removed is left on pavements. V Ranganathan, a former civic chief who has seen desilting work abroad, said, “There are two vehicles that do desilting. One removes silt, the other that dumps it the same day. In Mumbai, the silt remains on the pavements and many times, the pre-monsoon showers just throw it all back into the drains.”

The panel said BMC should overhaul the cleaning system, and not take up the issue only two months before the monsoon. Citizen awareness was also key, said SN Patankar, a former city engineer and member of Mumbai Vikas Samiti.

James John Koreth, from AGNI, said BMC must remove unauthorised structures, as living near nullahs dangerous.

First Published: Jun 07, 2017 09:30 IST