Herald: Learning lessons from Mumbai’s flooding

Learning lessons from Mumbai’s flooding

03 Jul 2019 05:09am IST
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03 Jul 2019 05:09am IST

Flooded streets during the monsoon months is not new to Mumbaikars. The streets get inundated every time there is a shower, leading to chaos on the streets that the city – its residents, business community and administration – struggles to cope with.

 This happens annually during the early days of the monsoon. But the overnight rains in Mumbai – the heaviest since the 2005 deluge – led to some massive destruction in the city, with 21 dead in a wall collapse at Malad, and another three in Kalyan of the neighbouring Thane district, and in all of Maharashtra the total number of deaths due to the rains was 35.

The flooded streets were so bad, that Mumbai closed down on Tuesday, a public holiday being declared as the red weather warning alert had not been withdrawn. Flights were cancelled as the airport was flooded, train services were paralysed as tracks were underwater. Power supply was suspended in suburban areas. People living close to the Mithi river had to be evacuated as the river threatened to burst its banks. India’s maximum city had been shut down by a little more than normal amount of rain, as the city’s infrastructure just crumbled, much as it does every monsoon. 

Mumbai converts into a big mess every monsoon and though Congress has slammed the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in Maharashtra for the deaths of the people, this is hardly the time for politics. It is the time to learn a few lessons and course correct so that this situation does not repeat. There are lessons to be learnt from this and not just for the city of Mumbai. Mumbai officials have pointed fingers at the ‘geographic phenomena’ for the flooded streets and the fact that the Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation was not prepared for the monsoon. Much like it happens in Goa, a reason for the flooded streets is that heavy rain showers in a short spell of time that coincide with the high tide keeps the water from flowing out. 

Mumbai’s administation is aware of that, yet Mumbai almost annually gets paralysed due to the rain, but this is a result of a paralysis in the administration and governance that does not take many of its civic tasks seriously. 

The one-day rains in Mumbai have exposed the faulty administration in the city, they have showed just how important it is to have a planned city with proper drainages and sewage systems, and how bending construction guidelines can lead to a disaster. This was highlighted by Mumbai’s South Central MP in the Lok Sabha who mentioned that many buildings in the city turn dangerous during the monsoon as the National Building Code is not followed in Mumbai. He sought that the code be made mandatory and not be left as recommendatory. He brought up the issue in relation to the wall collapse, where people died earlier the same morning. 

But will the lessons be learnt, or will Mumbai go back to normal once the waters subside and the rain warning is withdrawn? Human lives have been lost, this can’t be a price to be paid for mismanagement of the city. The municipal corporation and the government of the State have to work together to ensure that the net monsoon there is no repeat of the annual occurrence. When natural water bodies are filled up and the water flow is blocked, such flooding will occur as the water has no manner of seeping into the ground. It therefore remains above ground, as it slowly finds its way into the sea. Mumbai deserves better than this annual flooding, that disrupts the city quotidian and even claims lives. The city planners have to find ways to drain out the monsoon rain.

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