BMC’s ‘monsoon preparedness’ goes for a toss as rains flood Mumbai

Waterlogged Mumbai has brought the spotlight back to the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation and its failure to prepare for the monsoon.

BMC’s ‘monsoon preparedness’ goes for a toss as rains flood Mumbai
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar stands on a waterlogged road as she visited the Parel Hindmata area during heavy rain, in Mumbai, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Photo credit: PTI)

After a gruelling summer, monsoons bring respite for Mumbaikars every year. This year, along with inundating the city, the rains also washed away the so-called ‘monsoon preparedness’ of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

On Wednesday, the financial capital of India braced the first monsoon rains of the season. The southwest monsoon entered the city with a bang and submerged roads, railway tracks and several low-lying areas. The waterlogging in several parts led to the shutting down of four subways. Motorists were forced to abandon their two-wheelers on the flooded roads.

Along with disrupted traffic, the incessant rains also hampered the Mumbai local train services, which were operational for health personnel and people in essential services.

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Commuters make their way during heavy rain, near Oberoi Mall at Goregaon, in Mumbai, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Photo credit: PTI)

“We have closed the subways due to water-logging of up to two feet at these junctions. However, traffic is smooth on the SV Road, Linking Road and the Western Express Highway. So far, no traffic congestion has been reported,” Somnath Gharge, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Western Suburbs, told PTI.

Several places like Khar, Milan, Andheri and Malad subways were closed for motorists by the traffic police due to water-logging. The Indian Meteorological Association (IMD) said that Santacruz recorded 164.8 mm (millimetre) rain from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm. During the same period, South Mumbai’s Colaba recorded 32.2 mm rain.

Tall claims, short outcome

The waterlogged city has yet again brought the attention back to the Mumbai city corporation — the BMC — and its failure to prepare for the monsoon. On Tuesday, BMC chief Iqbal Singh Chahal had held a review meeting to take note of the corporation’s preparedness for the monsoons.

According to reports, the officials of the BMC had told Chahal that the corporation had removed nearly 3.24 lakh metric tonnes of silt was removed from prominent drains in the city and it had completed 104 per cent of the work of desilting. The tall claims fell short as several areas from Andheri to Mulund were waterlogged by the rains.

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Heavy monsoon rains hit India’s Mumbai, disrupting life in the country’s financial capital. Many parts of the city are waterlogged and some train services have been cancelled as a result. (Photo credit: AFP)

The Free Press Journal, quoting BMC data, said that currently in the city 368 road repair and reconstruction works were underway. Out of the 368, the BMC managed to finish 211 repaid works by May 31. The report noted that the remaining works will be “brought to a safe stage” so that the monsoon “does not cause inconvenience to traffic”.

Well, the monsoon did just what the BMC thought it wouldn’t do: disrupt the traffic in the city.

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Several places in the city were inundated due to heavy rainfall. (Photo credit: AFP)

Hindamata is waterlogged — again!

Hindamata in Mumbai is prone to waterlogging and every year the neighbourhood is inundated after several bouts of rain. This year, the situation was no better. After the rain lashed Mumbai on June 9, the two areas in the city prone to flooding, Hindamata and Gandhi market, were of course flooded.

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BMC workers install a signboard saying ‘Danger” near a manhole, to guide people on a waterlogged road after heavy rain, at Hindamata Parel area in Mumbai, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Photo credit: PTI)

So, what happened to the BMC’s preparedness? Well, on May 24, India Today reported that the BMC had made a strong claim: Hindmata will not witness such waterlogging. The basis for these claims was the construction of underground storage tanks, which will reportedly hold 1 lakh cubic metre rainwater for a couple of hours, and an elevated road in the area.

“Just eight days back, we have received permission to lay the underground water pipelines below Tata Mills (at Parel) which will carry floodwater from Hindmata to the two underground tanks, located 1-1.5 km away. It will take another 30 days to complete the work, after which the flooding woes of the area will be resolved,” BMC Commissioner Chahal was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

Similar tanks were also under construction at Gandhi Market. However, both the areas were flooded from Wednesday’s rain. The Indian Express, which quoted officials from the BMC, said that in the first phase, the corporation will construct chambers and culverts for the water tank at the market. A stormwater drain line, the newspaper said, with a capacity of 900mm has been laid, which can carry the water up to the Bharat Nagar railway nullah near King’s Circle railway station.

In the second phase, the report noted, the BMC will build floodgates at the nullah. This will be done to stop the entry of high tide water during heavy rainfall. The collected rainwater from the tanks will be carried through the Bharat Nagar drain and dumped into the sea through the use of drains.

According to the Times of India, the projects at Hindamata and Gandhi Market cost Rs. 140 crore and Rs. 16 crore, respectively.

Allegations and rebuttals

What doesn’t work for the BMC, will work for the opposition parties. Both the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were swift in making several allegations against the corporation and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government.

Taking to Twitter, the national joint secretary of the AAP, Ruben Mascarenhas, posed several questions to the BMC.

BJP MLA Ashish Shelar levelled several allegations against the BMC.

Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar rebutted Shelar’s allegations and said that the flooding was “bound to happen due to incessant rains”.

“We never said that there will be no flooding in the city. It was bound to happen due to incessant rains. But, we ensured that the accumulated water receded quickly,” she was quoted by Deccan Chronicle as saying.

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