Remembering Mumbai's 26th July Deluge

Three long years after the July 26, 2005 deluge, the dreadful memories of “Black Tuesday” return to haunt the mind as soon as a few heavy showers hit the city.The rain pounded the city ruthlessly that day inundating it with 944 mm of rainfall and killing over 450 people. As a result, government agencies have started issuing prompt alerts, warning people not to venture out of their house unless it is extremely necessary.The agencies promptly alert the citizens but they have failed to display the same promptness in acting on the promises made by them. Immediately after the deluge, the State government, which had always been casual about the problems of water-logging in the city and towards complaints about choked drains got into action mode. It formed committees and special cells to tackle similar eventualities in future. It undertook a special project to clean the infamous Mithi river, which had caused flooding on a very large scale.There has been a percentage development in the cleaning up of Mithi, the main culprit, but the other commitments and promises made by the state are still untouched.
Mithi work just half way The work on Mithi too was delayed inordinately. Till now, around 80 per cent of the desilting work has been completed. Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the lackadaisical attitude of the government about the cleaning up of Mithi and introducing measures to prevent recurrence of the delugelike disaster, had alleged that contractors were adopting corrupt practices. “Desilting and other work should have been completed by now. But it has not been done. Sustained followup and the fear of the high court have given a momentum to the Mithi work. Even then, after three years, it has only reached the half-way mark.
In the current year, MMRDA removed 16.4 lakh cubic metres of silt, 12.5 lakh cubic metres to various dumping grounds,” said Somaiya.The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has, however, completed a major part of the work of removal and transportation of silt in its section of the Mithi. But the differences between the BMC and the MMRDA over the cleaning of the river have delayed much of the work. The BMC claims that almost eight lakh cubic metres of silt have been removed and transported in three years. “As a precautionary measure, the BMC is constructing retaining walls on both sides of the Mithi river. The work is expected to be completed next year,” a BMC official said.
The Central Water and Power Research Station (CW PRS), Pune, and the Centre for Environmental Science Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai had formulated recommendations and important guidelines in connection with the Mithi River Development Project. They had recommended that all the bridges/ crossings maintain the width of the river, either by reconstruction or repositioning of the ducts and/or removal of debris from the riverbed. They also said the bridge on S.V. Road near Mahim Bay be widened.
Though the measures have been initiated by the BMC, the vital work of widening and reconstruction of the Mithi riverbed is yet to start. It is vital that the work is given a push so that it gathers momentum. Widening of Mithi has been done along a 19-km stretch.The work on the remaining 2 km remains to be completed. If it is further delayed and if the city experiences heavy rain, there could be another deluge,” said Somaiya. “The State concentrated only on the Mithi, the main trouble maker. But what about other rivers that had contributed to the deluge? The desilting and other work on Dahisar, Poisar, Oshiwara, Waldhuni and Ulhas has not started. The State had been assuring immediate steps. It had made many announcements but done nothing in the past 36 months,” Somaiya alleged.
The Centre had sanctioned grants for a BRIMSTOWAD project. But no work has begun. The Centre had released Rs400 crore for this year for the Rs1,200-crore Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage project. An outlay of Rs100 crore has been proposed for 2008-09.
The action plan was ready last year and the tendering process has been completed but the actual work is still to start.
Men missing After the dreaded deluge, more that 135 persons went missing. Subsequently 82 bodies were recovered from various areas. However, as many as 28 persons are still missing and 20 bodies left unclaimed with Mumbai police.
Air India Colony at Kalina is flooded every monsoon. But July 26/7 was a horrifying experience for the residents. The Air-India and Indian Airlines employees’ colonies were submerged in 12-foot deep water.The colony went without food, water and electricity for four days.
“The colony was submerged because three of the four drainage outlets near it were choked. The BMC immediately took up the work of cleaning the drainage lines. However, only one has been cleaned in three years,” said T.K. Deb, secretary of Air India Colony.“We tried to increase the plinth level of our homes.Around 200 flats on the ground floor were vacated. The residents there were shifted to other flats in the colony. But to add to their problem, the MIAL too increased the level of its runway. So the next time it rains continuously, we fear we will have to face another 26/7,” Deb said.
After the deluge, the BMC had decided to implement the recommendations of the Chitale Committee, which had suggested the following Preparation of contour maps, which would include a complete picture of Mumbai’s drainage and sewerage systems vis-à-vis the city’s physical contours. The work of preparing the maps was entrusted to the National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad. After three years, the BMC is now trying to revive the twice-rejected plan.
Installation of rain gauges at 26 places in wards after discuaaion with consultants.One rain gauge was installed by the BMC at Malabar Hill as a pilot project to measure rainfall and water levels. To measure rainfall, the BMC had decided to spend Rs1 billion on pre-monsoon work. It was to comprise six search and rescue (SAR) teams armed with inflatable rubber speed boats and 12 kayaks for Karla, Santa Cruz, Bandra, Borivali, Marol, Dharavi and Byculla fire stations.
Installation of a hi-tech Doppler radar to better predict rain, removal of encroachments on drains, cross-drainage connectivity, creation of social awareness and participation of residents of low-lying areas, beside cleaning of drains and the Mithi river. The measures are yet to be fully implemented.
Desilting work, improving the storm water drainage system and renovating the old system.
Constructing pumping stations and installing pumps to drain out water.Shefali Deshmukh, a resident of Parel, said. “Postdeluge, it is clear that redevelopment of Mumbai city needs a planned sectoral method, not haphazard, as has happened so far. Remaking of Mumbai federation is taking the joint venture route for faster and better planned growth, while releasing enough funds for much-needed upgradation of infrastructure,” said convener of the RoMF, Lalit Gandhi, who is the CMD of Lok Housing and Constructions Limited.
CLOUDBURST FACTS Rainfall Santa Cruz (in mm)
By 11.30am 0.9
By 2.30pm 19.3
By 5.30pm 400.1
By 8.30pm 667.7
By 11.30pm 768.8
By 2.30am 885.0
By 5.30am 896.0
By 8.30am 944.2
DEATH TOLL till Aug 12, 2005 Mumbai 454 dead 20 injured Navi Mumbai 66 dead 22 injured 14 missing Thane 226 dead 19 injured 15 missing .

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