MUMBAI: City commissioner Ajoy Mehta said Tuesday’s extremely heavy rains were beyond what Mumbai’s infrastructure could handle. He said that if the civic body had not put in place all the measures to contain the damage, a bigger tragedy could have taken place.
His comments came even as hydrologist Madhav Chitale, whose committee set up post-267 made recommendations to prevent a rainfall disaster again, told that only the BMC could say whether it had protected the natural drainage system of five river basins in the city and raised questions about the effectiveness of the cleaning of drains.
An official of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) took the debate further, saying that the protocol for actions to be taken at different levels of weather warnings has to be implemented seriously, particularly in a place like Mumbai prone to flooding. “For example, a holiday for schools and other institutions could have been declared in advance,” the official said.
Mehta defended BMC, saying that 28,000 workers and civic officials were on the field. “Workers have been cleaning the city. So far, nearly 5,000 metric tons of garbage have been cleared,” he said. This is huge considering that the city generates 7,700 metric tons of waste a day that are then sent to landfills. “While we do not deny that there was flooding, the speed with which the city returned to normal is also important,” added Mehta, adding that night shelters were built to help stranded people, especially in municipal schools near the stations of trains.
The BMC had put its 300 more dehydration pumps to work, he noted, and 30,000 employees were involved in ensuring the water was drained. For the first time, sewer lines were also used to discharge rainwater.
The question remains, however, how and why so many parties were plunged despite the fact that the civic corps spent more than Rs400 crore in the last decade in building stormwater pumping stations. After the Chitale panel recommended pumping stations to clean water from flooded areas at sea, six of those stations have reached Irla, Haji Ali, Cleveland, Lovegrove, Gazdarbandh and Britannia. Civic officials had stated that the Britannia pumping station would mitigate water logging from Hindmata to Byculla. However, Hindmata was flooded as usual, with rainwater taking hours to recede.
Samajawadi party leader at BMC Rais Shaikh demanded an investigation. “Although money has been spent on the construction of pumping stations, it does not appear that the best technology has been brought in due to political interference.” At the next meeting of the standing committee, we will demand accountability for the total failure of the system, “Shaikh said.
Mehta said the pumping stations helped discharge 6,000 liters of water per second. “They pumped 7 billion liters yesterday, we’re trying to figure out what happened at Hindmata and why the water took so long to recede,” he said.
Chitale asked to save the five rivers of the city – Mithi, Oshiwara, Poisar and Dahisar in the western suburbs and Mahul in the suburbs of the east – and their basins. “When we look at Mumbai we do not see it as a homogeneous geographic mass, but as a combination of five river basins, due to its dense development, both the common man and the municipal administration have forgotten that the rivers have their natural drainage system that needs be protected, “