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Mumbai by Monsoon

Everyone thought that this year would be different for Mumbaikars and life wouldn’t go out of gear during Monsoon as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had given assurance to Bombay high court that it was prepared to ìtackle all natural calamitiesî this Monsoon. However, all these hopes were belied when the commercial Capital of the country received 65% of the annual average rainfall in just few days. We are once again witness to waterlogged roads, disrupted public transport system, loss of life due to drowning and electrocution and the entire city coming to standstill! Perhaps we are in danger of seeing the entire civilisation submerging under man made ocean soon.

If the condition of the Commercial capital of the country is so bad one can visualise the situation elsewhere in the country. Mumbai’s local body is one of the richest in the world boasting of a bank balance of more than Rs 55,000 crore. In other words, lack of funds is not the reason for the current state of affairs. It has got to do with either lack of knowledge or is the result of shoddy work, or may be both.

If 26/7, 2005 like situation was not created during last 13 years, it is not because our drainage system has undergone sea change but because we have not had the kind of tropical depression which we witnessed then which claimed more than 500 lives and destroyed many houses. We haven’t learnt any lessons from our past mistakes – Mithi river is fast narrowing down, lakes are shrinking, flooding blame game is becoming an annual ritual and as a result the loss of life and property is the penalty the common man has to pay for no fault of his. Many a times, Indian Meteorology department’s (IMD) inability to predict weather conditions accurately have been used as a shield by the concerned authorities for all our problems during the Monsoon.

But the single most factor for flooding during Monsoon in Mumbai and many other cities is the hapazard growth of the city without any planning. Take the case of Northern part of the city where growth is higly unplanned. The drainage plans in northern suburbs is chalked out as and when required in a particular area and not from an overall point of view. Had our environment ministry was strict in enforcing its guidelines/rules, many buidings in Northern part wouldn’t have come up.

Further, mangroves which existed in several parts of the city have paved the way for concrete jungle. In fact, the Bandra-Kurla complex is created by replacing swamps. In Malad, a suburb in Northern Mumbai, there is a famous mall which has become a landmark in the area. This mall is built by destructing the large patch of Mangroves. Similarly, in various locations, slums have cropped up by encroaching upon the storm water drains.

Further, the present storm-water drainage system in Mumbai was put in place few decades ago and is based on past rainfall records. However, over the years rainfall pattern in Mumbai as in elsewhere has changed dramatically. Rainfall across the country is now more characterised by few days of intense rainfall. In such cases, our drainage system which is put in place based on the annual average rainfall will not be capable of carrying the excess water to seas, thus causing floods. Still further, excessive usage of concrete in flooring the open space also doesn’t help the rain water to be absorbed by the soil which also contributes floods.

All these factors are well known to the authorities and are also well documented by experts and study groups. However, no concrete action has been taken to tackle the issue of flooding during Monsoon and nature’s fury is allowed to take over the reigns of the city for a few days in a year. Authorities are well aware that public memory is short lived and things will become normal with the passage of time. But remember, Mumbai would have been a better place if such incidents were never allowed to happen.

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