Two striking examples of BMC inefficiency in 1 day

Hindustan Times | ByAyaz Memon
Feb 01, 2019 12:19 AM IST

This week, the newly restored Flora Fountain developed a leak within a couple of days of its inauguration and a short distance away large chunk of Marine Drive caved in

This week, Mumbai woke up to two fine examples of how well the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) runs the city. The newly restored fountain at Hutatma Chowk developed a leak within a couple of days of its inauguration. And a short distance away, a fairly large chunk of Marine Drive, Mumbai’s most famous and iconic promenade, caved in near the crossing where this road turns towards Churchgate station.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) headquarters in Mumbai(HT FILE)
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) headquarters in Mumbai(HT FILE)

The general understanding in Mumbai is that no matter what happens elsewhere, Marine Drive is among those areas — Malabar Hill, Breach Candy, Peddar Road, Carmichael Road, Altamount Road, Napean Sea Road being some others — that are very well looked after.

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The crème de la crème of Mumbai resides in these areas as well as the most powerful, among them leading politicians, bureaucrats, BMC officials and police chiefs. Maintaining these areas hassle-free is not a new development. It has been so historically.

Among these, Marine Drive enjoys prime of place. This is the road that gives the city so much of its aesthetic beauty, glamour and character, starting from the outer edge of Girgaum Chowpatty and leading up to the southern end where the Gateway of India stands, taking in its sweep Nariman Point and Mantralaya, where the state’s seat of power is located.

How could anything go wrong on this road one might ask? Well, what excellent evidence to the contrary. Or perhaps this is democracy at work, where every area is treated equally badly!

And as for Flora Fountain’s short-lived rejuvenation, it makes it easier to understand why we have pipes that don’t take water where most badly needed and waste it elsewhere.

If these mishaps were not so serious, it would be almost comical. That this should happen in the country’s leading city, in prime locations and both of them so close to the BMC headquarters, is the deep irony. What hope then for other, less prominent areas?

The Marine Drive cave-in was fortunately anticipated in the nick of time, preventing accidents and casualties. What if one or a couple of cars were travelling over the part where the road caved in, it could have led to a monumental tragedy.

Flora Fountain’s malfunction was not a threat to life, but was a setback nonetheless and stymied months of effort at reviving one of the city’s major landmarks.

It becomes particularly galling when you consider that the BMC is the richest civic body in the country. Its annual budget is in excess of 27,000 crore, so resources for development, maintenance and repairs can hardly be the issue.

Why then should such things occur — or recur — considering that there had been a cave-in on Marine Drive a few years earlier too?

The problem lies in the lack of proper planning and detailing of such work that is undertaken – as seems to be the case in the Marine Drive road collapse, as well as callous disregard for completing the ‘last mile’ diligently, as the Flora Fountain setback highlights.

Authorities associated with both these projects have been at pains to highlight what has gone wrong. But their explanations don’t wash because all these should have been factored in, leaving zero scope for the trouble that has been witnessed.

Accidents can happen and always come unannounced. It is the preparedness for such eventualities that matters.

This is where the civic body has been utterly incompetent, for there have been several instances in the past where this has showed up.

A diatribe against the BMC, however, is not the purpose of this column, nor is that of much help. A great deal has already been written about the efficiency or otherwise of the corporation. More words will be wasted.

Whether the corporation will wake up now, after the recent problems is moot.The more pertinent question is whether citizens will wake up, say enough is enough, and demand stringent accountability.

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