Why our city will flood every monsoon
Consider this. Six reports have been submitted to the state government by six different committees over the past 40 years on how to deal with Mumbai’s chronic flooding problem. The last one, submitted in 2006 by water expert Madhav Chitale after the 26/7 deluge, is gathering dust along with the others, as majority of recommendations have not been implemented.
Meanwhile, heavy rainfall — 200 mm, not 2005’s 900mm deluge — cripples the city and its citizens continue to struggle, as they have in the past two days.
This is proof of the BMC’s ineptness and myopic attitude, say experts and citizens. Others attribute the mess to lack of accountability and political apathy.
“Controlling flooding and improving our drains have never been given priority. The city’s natural drains have disappeared and our population has grown rapidly, which has reduced the holding space for rainwater,” said former chief secretary DM Sukhtankar.
On ground, the BMC’s mega Brihanmumbai Stormwater Drains project (Brimstowad) — to widen and deepen nullahs that connect to the sea and creek — has got priority over upgradation of minor drains that carry floodwater from our localities to these major drains. But big projects such as the Brimstowad and Mithi river development, which were taken up after the 2005 deluge, have been needlessly delayed — only 30% of Brimstowad and 25% of Mithi development are complete — and the small drains continue to be ignored.
While major drains constitute 7% of the 3,095-km drain network, the remaining 93% consists of minor and roadside drains, which are being neglected.
Take another instance of neglect. Chitale had suggested that an urban hydrology unit be set up to map flood levels and create hydrographs so that the information can be used for the city’s development. Seven years later, this unit has not been set up.
“We discussed these same issues – potholed roads and flooding – five years ago, three years ago and again, today. But nothing changes because no one is accountable,” said Narinder Nayar, chairman of Mumbai First, an initiative of city corporates to partner with the state for a Mumbai makeover. “There is enough room for the state government to intervene if the BMC is not doing a good job, but there seems to be little political will.”
“The state does intervene. The CM and I have been monitoring and reviewing the situation in the past two days. BMC has been instructed to get potholes filled or suspend contractors,” said Naseem Khan, suburban guardian minister.
The one thing that has changed since 2005 is the alacrity with which authorities issue alerts and caution us against stepping out of our homes.