Could Mumbai Deluge Have Been Averted? Experts Say ‘Yes’
Urban planning and environmental experts discuss the measures that could and should have already been put in place.
Another monsoon brought another deluge to India’s financial capital, Mumbai. With large parts of the city underwater, commuters stranded and lives lost, 29 August brought back the horrific memories of 26 July 2005. This time too, Mumbaikars rose to the occasion and helped fellow residents overcome the crisis together but the questions that need to be asked to the city’s civic body and state machinery are these: Have we learnt nothing in the last 13 years? Despite having over a decade to prepare, why was Mumbai still submerged?
The problems, experts say, are serious and numerous. But if planned well, their solutions are definitely executable in the long run.
A large portion of the city’s open spaces which once soaked up water have now been turned to concrete. In land-starved Mumbai, every piece of real estate is seen as a potential construction site. But while building the city, its planners seem to have overlooked the eventuality of floods.
When there were vacant lands, excess rain water percolated to the ground and was absorbed. But when the city grew and concrete residential and commercial buildings came up across Mumbai, excess water couldn’t be absorbed by the ground anymore. This results in the streets being flooded.Chandrashekhar Prabhu, Urban Planning Expert
While one of the solutions to tackle this problem would be to leave open spaces, mangroves and salt pans across the city untouched, experts suggest a few other important solutions.
Planning huge infrastructure projects around low lying areas must be avoided, like the Metro 3 project cuts across Mahalaxmi, which is a low lying area. If one line is affected due to waterlogging here, the entire line will be affected.Rishi Agarwal, Environmental Activist and Urban Planner
According to urban planners, an overhaul of Mumbai’s storm-water drainage system is long overdue. Despite massive desilting activities carried out by the civic body before the onset of monsoon every year, heavy rain lashing for a few hours is all it takes to flood Mumbai’s roads.
Cities have not been planned keeping floods in mind. This holds true across the board – Bangalore, Chennai or Mumbai. We are not even seeing provision of basic services like sewage in new development plans.Rishi Agarwal, Environmental Activist and Urban Planner
Apart from adding more sewer lines and maintaining them regularly, experts believe innovative water-conservation measures could help not just stop flooding, but also come handy during droughts.
If we can build tunnels for metro projects, why can’t we dig reservoirs underground? We need to start doing that so that the surplus water can be stored underground and be pumped out whenever required.Chandrashekhar Prabhu, Urban Planning Expert
Lack of Transparency
In 2016, the BMC was forced to suspend two of its Chief Engineers and form a committee to inquire into a Rs 352 crore road repairs scam. With massive irregularities carried out by its independent contractors and senior officials exposed, questions were raised about the lack of transparency maintained by the civic body.
The following year, the BMC, one of the richest civic bodies of India, slashed its budget by nearly Rs 12,000 crore. Experts say lack of transparency is one of the biggest hurdles that the civic body must overcome to ensure optimum use of funds.
Every worker, department and ward official must be held accountable. Whoever is responsible must oversee all the activities undertaken by the officials and contractors.Premnath, Principal Architect, Architect Premnath & Associates
The processes that go into awarding contracts need to be revisited. It must be ensured that there’s minimum corruption involved in that process. Also, there must be an independent machinery to keep watch on what’s happening, whether the contract has been carried out to the satisfaction of the city or not.Chandrashekhar Prabhu, Urban Planning Expert
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