Normally one would think that the monsoons are welcomed with a sigh of relief, but the torrential downpours in some Indian cities have caught the residents off guard. One among those is Mumbai. The numbers are alarming – in the second week of July, Mahalaxmi experienced 628 mm of rain and Santa Cruz saw 958.5 mm of rain.
Mumbai city prides itself on its ability to recover, but with passing time it is getting hard to ignore the far-reaching damage brought about by the torrential rains that visit the city each year. This year’s monsoon has just begun and the city was left to mourn with 31 deaths of those who lost their lives on the hillside settlements in Chembur’s Mahaul.
Reeling under the economic fallouts of an extended pandemic, having the monsoon bring on a fallout of this scale wasn’t unprecedented. As per a 2010 survey by the MHADA’s Slum Improvement Board and BMC, close to 1 lakh families live on the hill slopes of Mumbai. A decade on, one can only expect that number to have multiplied and not reduced.
When it comes to housing, the most predominant issues appear to be :
- Lack of appropriate infrastructure or facilities to cope with these torrential rains
- An unequal housing plan wherein the underprivileged section of the society mostly are left to find accommodation on the outskirts of Maximum City.
Recommendations proposed by Government Authorities to solve the problem
Monsoon flooding is not new to Mumbai, the city has had its bad and worse seasons, the latter which really shook it was in 2005. In order to better manage and prevent a similar occurrence, mitigation plans for the future were drawn up. One such plan was established by a Fact Finding committee which was headed by Madhavrao Chitale, who came up with the following recommendations:
- Ensuring that there are no blockages which prevent the free flow of rivers.
- Development of lakes to hold the excess flood waters.
- Improve the living conditions of those who stay in risky areas.
As an initiative to solve this problem in 2016, the Indian Meteorological Department did an analysis on the ‘Rainwater harvesting potential for different locations in the state of Maharashtra.
The summary of the findings were :
1.Rain is the prime source of water for the state.
2.It’s the only way in which one can save water for future use
3.The short duration and high intensity of the rainfall results in it flowing away
4. Rainwater can be captured from the roofs and stored in the reservoirs
5. This water can help with recharging groundwater levels
In the year 2019 the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) assessed the situation and presented a report to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which suggested:
- The State does not have a disaster management plan in place
- Only 3 out of 45 outfalls have floodgates hence the flow of the storm water flows unchecked
- The drains are designed to treat only 25mm of rain per hour
It’s been over a decade and the numbers have increased, the spaces have decreased, and more vulnerable areas across the city have been found populated that only would magnify the loss, if 2005 were to repeat itself in future. Water can be our best friend and can also turn out to be our worst enemy. Keeping it always on our side entails a deeper understanding of how to harness its power to our advantage, and not be in its path at our vulnerable worst.
Mumbai Monsoon 2021 – A Preview
Unfortunately this year’s monsoon was no different for the Mumbaikars, it brought with it destruction in the form of its floods.
The major causative factors appear to be :
1.The rampant construction takes up free space and the waste generated from this activity clogs up drains and disrupts the drainage system.
2.Furthermore the rivers in Mumbai are no longer what they once were, they have become a dumping ground for waste. And wetlands that once used to form a part of rivers have become a thing of the past making the probability of flooding higher.
3. Another glaring factor that results in these floods is the unchecked deforestation alongside the coastal lines.
The Mumbai Monsoon will return like clockwork in 2022. And the subsequent year. It is hoped that a more comprehensive and inclusive housing plan for the city and upgrading the existing drainage system would bring more security and safety to that part of Maximum City, who has started to dread the monsoons every year, than feel the magic in it. Only time will tell if the careful planning and effective water conservation practices recommended through the years will effectively bring back the magic in the Mumbai Monsoons.