After a deluge nearly drowned the city on July 26, 2005, Mumbaikars became aware, for the first time, of the danger posed by the infamous Mithi River. After the tragedy, the state government appointed a Fact Finding Committee, presided over by Dr. Madhavrao Chitale, to investigate into the causes of the flood and suggest remedial measures to avoid similar incidents in future. In this report, VISHNUDAS SHESHRAO finds that since 2006, the BMC undertook, on an annual basis, ‘remedial measures’, only to find the city repeatedly facing flood-like situations.
Since the year of the flood the BMC has been spending hundreds of crores on the cleaning and widening of the Mithi River and other nullahs in the city. The Central Government has sanctioned Rs.1,200 crore for the widening and deepening of Mithi River, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Redevelopment Mission.
Over a period of five years, the BMC’s expenditure for the maintenance of the storm the water drain system rose from a measly Rs 448.87 crore (2006) to Rs.1,626.00 crore. The civic body has spent a total of Rs 6,854.48 to avert a July 2005 type situation. But the city is still at risk of flooding in the event of heavy rainfall. This year in fact, the BMC has identified 40 flood prone areas in the city, more than before.
Different agencies, different problems
There are 13 different Central government and state government agencies, including the Bombay Port Trust (BPT), Air Port Authority, Slum Rehabilitation Authority, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), Public Works Department (PWD), Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, Central Railway, Western Railway, Indian Navy, Indian Army and Indian Air Force, with bases which fall within the city limits
The BMC, a civic body entrusted with providing civic amenities such as water supply, construction of roads, cleanliness and other basic services on pan city level, overlaps jurisdictionally with the aforementioned agencies. It has a restricted access to city-based facilities operated by these agencies.
This jurisdictional rigmarole is really affecting the ongoing cleaning work of nullahs. During his visit this year to check the volume of nullah cleaning work completed in the western suburbs, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray had expressed concerns regarding a major nullah site at————————which was choked up and could not be widened, since if fell under the Air Force Authority’s jurisdiction.
The BMC had repeatedly requested the Air Force authorities to let them have access to the area. However, the latter neither cleaned the nullah nor allowed civic employees to enter their premises to do the same.
The story is not all that different with the Railway Authorities. Several major and minor nullahs pass through properties controlled by the both the Central and Western Railways.
The cleaning of these nullahs is primarily the responsibility of the railways. However, due to labour- related problems, they requested the BMC to do the cleaning.
BMC workers went on-site only to learn that work conditions there are hazardous due to on-going railway traffic. So they refused to work, consequently leaving the work unfinished.
The chief minister has no time!
The heads of all the respective 13 agencies are appointed by the Central government or the state government. They are selected through Union Public Service Commission and they are most senior in their respective cadres. As head of the Municipal Corporation, the municipal commissioner has the authority to call all the heads of these organisations for a meeting, as per the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Act. However, unless summoned by the chief minister, apparently ego dictates that heads send their juniors for the meeting!
Last year, then Commissioner Subodh Kumar had called a meeting of all heads of organisations in whose jurisdiction some of the nullahs run. Moatly it was the deupities who landed up[. And being deputies, they could not take any decisions or make recommendations for the better cleaning of nullahs in the city.
To overcome this problem, this year Mayor Sunil Prabhu requested the Chief Minister to call a joint meeting of all the agencies in the city and take an audit of work done.
Prabhu said, “We had sent two letters to the Chief Minister, requesting him to call all heads of the agencies. However, we did not get any reply from his office, except for acknowledgement of our letter. I think the CM might be busy in some other work.”
Earlier this month, during the inspection of nullah cleaning work, Uddhav Thackeray said, “I have observed that nullah cleaning work is in progress. Most of the work is done, yet I am afraid that some agencies still have to clean nullahs in their respective areas or face a choke-up which will cause a flood like situation. I have been informed it happened in the Indian Air Force jurisdiction and Railway jurisdictions. The Chief Minister has to take a review of the nullah cleaning work. If the city floods this monsoon, please don’t blame the BMC for it.”
Both Western and Central Railway authorities claim that pre-monsoon work on the suburban section is in full swing, though the efficacy of the work will only be tested during the monsoons. WR recently announced that by May 31, its first phase of pre-monsoon work, comprising of cleaning culverts and desilting, would be over. Desilting of side drains and installation of water pumps was expected to be completed by yesterday.
CR has stated that it is in “continuous dialogue” with the civic body to ensure that the drains and culverts are cleaned on time to ensure smooth running of trains.
There’s work to be done at:
- Cleaning the culvert below the BPT track in Wadala
- Repairing the drains at Reynolds Colony
- Providing covers for manholes where missing
Airports Authority of India
- Deepening and widening the drains in its territory
- Completing the desilting work of Mithi River
- Debris to be removed from Jarimari slum in Kurla
- Desilting of nullah at Pratiksha Nagar, Sion
- Desilting at Mega City, Gulmohar, Chunabhatti
- Clearing the debris and desilting during the construction of bridge at Boundary Nullah in Mulund
- Cleaning cross drains, side drains at Kherwadi, Kamla Nehru Nagar, Poisar River, Rani Sati Nagar to Oberoi Mall, Bimbisar Nagar
- Cleaning side drains at DV Pradhan, Adhyapak nullah, Carshed nullah and Brahmanwadi nullah
- All pipeline nullahs across the tracks to be cleaned
- Manholes should be cleaned at Reay Road
- Desilting of Mithi River. Till May 25, only 21 per cent desilting was done and 79 is still pending
- Desliting of BKC nullah
- Desilting at Mithi River, Vakola nullah, Prem Nagar nullah at Ghatkopar
- Cleaning the debris and desilting at Monorail Project
11. Juhu Tara Rd &
S,V. Rd Junction Santacruz(W)
12. Milan Subway
14. Bhogale Chowk, Vileparle (E)
15. Junction of M.G. Road, Subash Rd, Vile Parle (E)
16. Andheri Subway
17. Marol Market,
Andheri Kurla Road, Andheri(W)
18. Vidyanidhi Complex, JVPD North, Vileparle(W)
19. Vira Desai Road, Last Bus Stop,
21. Piramal Nagar
22. Rani Sati Mard, Malad
23. Link Rd, Guri pada Malad
24. Malad Subway
25. Sambhaji Nagar, Dahisar (E)
26. Dahisar Subway, Dahisar (E, W)
27. Valnai Hutment Colonies Kandiwali
28. Opp Kandivali Fire Station
29. Kurla Station (W)
30. LBS Marg, Kurla
31. Premier Rd, Milind Nagar Nullah Kurla
32. Shanti Nagar Baigan wadi
33. Sindhi Society, Chembur (W)
34. Between 21st Road and Subhas Ngr Rd, Jeevanbahar Soc, Chembur (W)
35. Shanta Jog Rd, Tilak Ngr Chembur (W)
36. Sawan Bazar, N.G Acharya Rd,Chembur (W)
37. Kirol Rd, Near Fatima High School Ghatkopar (W)
38. New Pant Nagar from VallabhBhai Extension,Lane utp Railway Quarters,Ghatkopar(E)
39. Naval Dockyar at L.B.S Marg, Chirag Nagar Road,Ghatkopar
40. Bhandup Village Road,Near Progressive Steel Co.Bhandup
Worst scenario: Bad news
l Mayor Sunil Prabhu had expressed concern after a joint meeting with 13 different agencies. After the meeting, the mayor wrote a letter to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte - “At the point where the MMRDA is working on the Mono and Metro rail, conditions of the nullah or storm water drain are the worst. Most of them are damaged due to the ongoing construction works.”
lIn D N Nagar, Versova, and Azad Nagar, the MMRDA has constructed structures over the nullahs. At one place, it has constructed a lift for construction material in the nullah, at another place it has constructed stairways and at one place it has stuck bamboos to support the structure. These activities will obstruct the flow of rain water into the storm water drainage and consequently, the city will face a flood-like situation.