It has now become an annual affair. Monsoon rains mean flooding of Mumbai and troubles for the public. Every year, the country's financial capital is paralysed as roads and rail tracks get submerged whenever it receives heavy rains during the monsoon, raising questions over the civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's preparedness. A similar thing happened during the last two days even after the civic body's claims of spending thousands of crores to rid the city of the recurring problem of flooding.
According to the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC which is considered the richest civic body in the country, it spent Rs 2,007 crore between 2005 and 2016 to overhaul the storm water drainage network under its Brimstowad project. Even for the current fiscal year of 2018-19, the BMC has provisioned the budget of Rs 565.55 crore to accelerate the flood-abatement program. However, as the problems continue to recur, the baffled citizens and experts blame the lack of proper planning for it.
Executive Director of Mumbai-based Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) Pankaj Joshi termed it as a "man made disaster" and attributed it to the consistent increase in development permissions. "No city can design storm water drain network which can accommodate such high watershed and runoff. Therefore, regardless of implementation of storm water drainage projects, the condition keeps worsening," he told PTI. "We need to modify the current state planning diktats of excessive development under ease-of-doing business and zealously guard the green and natural areas which are being lost rapidly," Joshi added.
Town planning expert Chandrashekar Prabhu said the haphazard development and foresight-less planning were the two prime reasons for this embarrassing yearly chaos. "It is not rocket science to understand that Mumbai's infrastructure did not progress in sync with its fleeting population," said Prabhu, former president of Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). "Builders are being granted permission to erect the high rises in congested areas which are further crumbling the infrastructure," he added.
RTI activist Anil Galgali, who has exposed several cases related to alleged corruption in the civic body, said that BMC should learn lessons from the past mistakes and seriously ponder over why even a small spell of rain floods the city. "Incomplete work and a lack of planning has contributed to this yearly chaos. Free flow of drainage, widening of nullahs, construction of new drains and pumping stations are the need of the hour," Galgali said. Journalist-turned-activist S. Balakrishnan said the problem was "deep rooted".
He said, "Over 60 per cent of the BMC's budget goes towards Establishment Expenses like salaries etc and not much is left for the city. The city has 25 Assistant commissioners in charge of each ward. If they are made transferable to rest of Maharashtra, they will be forced to act." Milind Mhaske, the project director of NGO Praja Foundation, said, "Mumbai's infrastructure crumbles every year because we have been ruled by the appointed executives who have not invested in the city and lack vision. "Therefore, we need empowered local elected representatives having great sense of accountability, transparency and who can galvanise the citizen participation in local governance matters.