Rains wash away Mumbai civic body’s claims; again

Mumbai city news: The sad reality, however, is that no effort or intention is good enough when the end result looks the same as when no effort was made

mumbai Updated: Jul 01, 2017 00:13 IST
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,BMC,rains
Mumbai’s ‘curse of potholes’, as we know it now, is a phenomenon of the past 20-odd years(HT)

One more first monsoon shower, one more set of problems, as I gather from newspapers about the impact of the first week of rains in Mumbai. In fact, make that the same set of problems. The sense of déjà vu, as anybody from the city will tell you, is infuriating.

I’ve been in Delhi on a television assignment for the Champions Trophy, but I have been plugged in to the Mumbai weather, not the least because of a leaking roof that had to be repaired before the monsoons arrived. The roof has held up well, Mumbai’s roads not quite so.

What riles is that no matter what happens, no matter how people vote or don’t vote in municipal elections, no matter which party or which combination is in power — though in this case the same lot have been in control for ages — when it rains, Mumbai splutters and suffers.

There is one argument you can make but no one will give it much currency – that low-lying areas will flood when it rains. After decades of listening to this, people blank off and start wondering how low-lying countries like Holland manage while a few roads in Mumbai cannot.

Plus, this year, Mumbai was promised a “flood-free” monsoon this year. But last Monday’s rains put various parts of the city out of gear, from south Mumbai to the suburbs, from the usual low lying areas like Hindmata to Khar and beyond.

Excuses of late permissions for cutting mangroves to pumps not working are flying around. Notices have been issued to BMC engineers responsible. But the malaise and apathy go deeper, as we well know.

An audit published in this newspaper on June 9 showed that six months and Rs440 crore of repair work later, Mumbai was not monsoon-ready. Roadworks were not completed and nullahs not cleaned. The Brimstowad project is still in a state of delay.

Every year, it is becoming increasingly clear that Mumbai cannot cope with itself. Thirty years ago – which is like yesterday for some of us – the city stood tall, flourishing, a shining example of civic glory to the rest of a crumbling, caving India.

But the warning signs were evident even then. Potholes had begun to appear more prolifically in the monsoon: and every year they grew in number and size. Like most warning signs, these were ignored.

The sanguine and experienced Mumbaikar knows the force of the monsoon will cause problems. It always has. All those growing up in the city in the 1960s and 70s would know that preparing for the prolonged ‘rainy season’ was integral to the annual itinerary.

Schools, colleges, institutions and homes did what they could to withstand the fury of the rains, as did families and individuals. For instance, buying a pair of gum boots (or ensuring the previous year’s pair was still rain worthy!) was a mandatory exercise.

Roads were also regularly under scrutiny of the BMC. Minor repairs – inevitable every year – would be carried out without fuss. Major ones would be identified early and the road would be restored well in advance.

Mumbai’s ‘curse of potholes’, as we know it now, is a phenomenon of the past 20-odd years — and worsening with every passing year, particularly since the turn of the century. Forget gum boots, now even outer space survival kits would be inadequate, so deep, wide and menacing potholes have become. Vehicles don’t complain, but their plight surely can’t be better.

With no end in sight to the problem, people are losing patience, more so as the demand for improved living standards grows with rising incomes and awareness.

But public expectation and public tolerance are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Any small disruption causes a domino effect of chaos and anger. I can sense this happening in Mumbai even while sitting in Delhi.

The BMC claims it has made a very real effort this time. Perhaps it has. The sad reality, however, is that no effort or intention is good enough when the end result looks the same as when no effort was made.

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 01:29 IST