(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)
(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Mumbai monsoon: How will infra works affect city

While work on the Metro lines has already started, construction work on coastal road, planned at Rs12, 721 crore, which is expected to decongest city’s traffic, started last year, around October.
By Sagar Pillai
UPDATED ON JUN 06, 2019 12:08 AM IST

As the city is expecting the monsoon to start in the next few days, there are concerns over the construction work for several mega infrastructure projects.

While work on the Metro lines has already started, construction work on coastal road, planned at Rs12, 721 crore, which is expected to decongest city’s traffic, started last year, around October. While the authorities say these projects when ready will help ease commuting for Mumbaiites, citizens and experts are wary of the trouble they may cause in terms of flooding during the monsoon.

The 29.2-km coastal road will connect South Mumbai to the western, coastal suburbs, using a combination of tunnels, roads on reclaimed land and elevated roads. According to the BMC’s plans, its first phase will start from Princess Street Flyover, Marine Lines to Worli. There have been allegations that the reclamation work was contrary to environmental laws and would “irreversibly damage the coastal morphology of Mumbai.”

The BMC has planned to reclaim 90 hectares from the sea. On the reclaimed land, the BMC has not only proposed a road, but also amenities such as parking lots, jogging track, bus depots and open spaces. Several PILs were filed by activists and Society for Improvement of Greenery and Nature, an NGO, saying the project would have an adverse effect upon marine ecology in those sections of the city coastline and will result in change of environment. In April, the HC heard petitions against the cutting of trees at Amarsons Garden in Bhulabhai Desai Road and on the lack of an environmental clearance for the project.

Explaining the change of land-use pattern over the years in the city, the coastal road’s own detailed project report points out that the reclamation or unplanned development along the Mithi River and Mahim creek has resulted in an ecosystem change, which led to the 2005 deluge. “The systematic destruction of about 1,000 acres of the city’s mangrove cover — what’s left, about 5,000 acres, is under threat — has deprived Mumbai of its natural flood-barrier and silt trap. The July 2005 flooding is a result of that ecosystem change,” the DPR says.

Coastal road situation

During the HT monsoon audit, our panellists visited two spots where the coastal road construction work is going on, one at Amarsons Garden and the other at southern end of Worli Sea face. They pointed out impacts of the construction that the city will have to face. There are two important aspects to the coastal road construction experts pointed out, one is the long-term impact to the city due to filling of land into the sea on a massive scale and the other is surviving its own construction and the impact it is having on the city for this monsoon.

Experts said that there is an urgent need to extend existing storm water drains from the original sea-facing land through the reclaimed land and giving an outlet to the sea. As of now, the BMC has constructed breakwaters nearly 80-100m away from the coastline and is also reclaiming the land between. The panellists found out that while some of the existing stormwater drains have been diverted within the reclaimed land, some have not been extended at all. “They have diverted a natural stormwater channel near Worli sea face which can prove dangerous during monsoon as it can have serious upstream flooding issues. In cases where the drains have not been connected, the empty space between the breakwaters and the coastline is in a pond like shape where the rainwater might get accumulated and enter the city, creating new flooding spots ,” said Pankaj Joshi, one of the panellists.

What the BMC has to say about it?

A senior civic official from the coastal road department said, “Nearly six to seven drains/outlets will be extended up to the new coastal road boundary. This will avoid accumulation of water within the land fill and ensure no blockages to the drains.” When asked what the BMC will do if the rainfall is heavier than the normal one, the official said, “The contractors have been told to set up dewatering pumps to flush out excessive rainwater and prevent flooding.”

According to civic officials, coastal road department has issued notices to the contractor working on the construction of coastal road, to take all possible precautions to ensure flooding does not occur this year. In case of flooding due to the coastal road work, the contractor will be held responsible, the warning by the BMC says.

Metro work: What is the situation on ground?

Our panellists also visited two crucial spots of Metro construction to see its impact during monsoon, DN Road near the iconic Flora Fountain and LBS Marg in the suburbs. Of the 13 Metro lines planned in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region region (MMR), the MMRDA is currently working on six different lines in the city. This has added to the traffic congestion and the BMC has been blaming Metro authorities for construction sites that cause flooding in nearby areas during monsoon this year. The agency has been criticised for allegedly not fixing sewage lines and stormwater drains broken due to Metro construction.

Citizens had raised concerns that work on the corridor – which is being undertaken in seven packages, from south Mumbai to Seepz in the western suburbs – may lead to waterlogging during the monsoon. In 2018, BMC had identified 17 spots where work on the underground Metro line had disturbed sewage and storm water drains leading to flooding during heavy rain.

During the monsoon audit at DN Road where the work on underground Metro 3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) is ongoing, panellist said a significant portion of the road has been elevated and the work on an underground Metro station is being carried out. They pointed that the elevation of the road will lead to rainwater entering the heritage buildings around.

Similarly, inspecting the ongoing Metro-4 (Wadala to Kasarvadavli) work at LBS Marg, the panellists found out that the work on stormwater drains alongside the Metro line has not been completed, making this area prone to flooding during monsoon. Vivek Pai, one of the panellists, said, “The drains are a crucial part of tackling monsoon and clear drains increases water receding. The authorities need to focus upon first making the area capable of handling floods by streamlining the stormwater drains around.”

What are the Metro authorities doing about it?

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has installed 338 dewatering pumps across the 27 spots where work on the underground Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) is in progress. The authority has also deployed 308 people at various spots to man the situation. Apart from this, the MMRDA has installed 30 pumps at the Metro corridors and 12 pumps on highways to flush out water.

Commenting on the observations Metro-4 work on LBS marg, Dilip Kawathkar, spokesperson for the MMRDA, said, “If any laterals or storm water drains are disturbed due to Metro work, it will be repaired and fixed on top priority.”

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