Getting stranded due to heavy rains has become a part of urban life in India and the same was witnessed this Tuesday in Mumbai. One must commend Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for being proactive and ensuring all civic and security agencies were working in tandem to provide succor to Mumbaikars. But the larger question is why does the chief minister have to personally monitor relief work and why can’t we develop systems that deal with such recurring problems.
The basic reason for this gross mismanagement is poor planning and policy by successive governments. Mumbai’s natural drainage systems of excessive rainwater have been at the receiving end due to the ever-rising demand of building concrete structures. The Mithi river that would normally carry the spillover water into the Arabian Sea has been plagued with plastic items and garbage being thrown into the river. The BMC’s Storm-water Drainage project has also undermined the cause by building concrete walls on both sides of natural creeks. This does not allow the water to be absorbed and is negatively affecting the growth of mangrove areas. Mangroves provide one of the best forms of natural protection against floods.
The lust for creating more square foot of space in the metropolis has also resulted in shrinking area of wetlands. Most of these are treated like landfills where solid waste is systematically dumped and later used as reclamation land for more construction. As per available data, Mumbai has 35.98 lakh trees but the ratio of trees to population is abysmally low at 0.28 per person.
While it is all good for top authorities to be on the job during such crisis situations, but the moot question still remains unanswered. Perhaps Fadnavis should spend more time with urban city planners and conservationists to put an end to this man-made menace of water logging.