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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Mumbai, everyone failed you! Hold Maharashtra government, BMC and railways responsible

A day after the disaster, authorities indicated there is little that can be done in Mumbai, an island with low-lying areas.

mumbai Updated: Aug 31, 2017 10:38 IST
Ketaki Ghoge and Tanushree Venkatraman
Ketaki Ghoge and Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
Stranded commuters at CSMT.
Stranded commuters at CSMT.(Bhushan Koyande)

If you are not already used to being stranded in the city during a heavy downpour, now would be a good time to start.

At least that’s the message the state, civic and railway authorities seem to be giving its citizens, indirectly.

A day after the disaster, authorities indicated there is little that can be done in Mumbai, an island with low-lying areas.

But it is not just the rain that is to blame. The problem also stems from lack of planning, coordination and foresight by authorities to tackle extreme weather. The state, the civic body and railway authorities failed the city miserably.

It all starts at the top. The state government ignored the weather forecast and an IMD red alert and continued to be in denial until it was too late. Even as rain pounded the city from early morning the state cabinet met at Mantralaya around noon, but did not bring up the developing situation even once.

It did not take charge of the situation and failed to take crucial decisions such as issuing advisories in time, making arrangements for stranded passengers by coordinating with state and outside agencies and pressing into service additional buses to ferry stranded commuters.

Then come the civic authorities, who once again had utterly failed to clean or improve the carrying capacity of the city’s storm water drains.

The delayed BRIMSTOWAD project, which aims to overhaul the city’s 19th century drains, was a solution suggested 12 years ago, after the 2005 deluge. The project has, instead, missed two deadlines, the cost has more than doubled and 20 upgradation works and two pumping stations are still pending. Experts told HT the impact of a project will not be visible unless it is complete. So despite the BMC commissioning six pumping stations, putting to use 229 dewatering pumps, 110 pumps of sewer stations and pumping out 7,000 litres of water, citizens had to wade in knee-deep and in some cases waist-high water across the city.

Next to blame is the city’s lifeline, the suburban railway system. As always, it was crippled much before the rain unleashed its full fury. More than 10,000 people had to spend a night at railway stations or were marooned on trains as railway authorities looked on helplessly. Even a day after, railway authorities could not normalise CR train services until 1.30pm. This points to mismanagement and apathy, said railway experts. Part of this failure is also down to poor coordination between state and civic agencies.

The commuting nightmare for citizens and the unnecessary deaths should be a wake-up call for authorities. To make matters worse, leaders from the two ruling parties, the Shiv Sena and the BJP, were once again seen taking potshots at each other instead of sitting together and discussing what could be done to prevent such a situation in the future. While Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray slammed ‘those who criticised’ him, city BJP chief Ashish Shelar publicly advised him to be polite.

(With inputs from Aroosa Ahmed)

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 10:38 IST

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