The deluge of 2005 came back to haunt the financial capital of India, Mumbai. Only this time, it caught the world unawares at how Mumbai didn’t learn a single ounce of lesson from the previous experience. There is no control on the vagaries of nature. Of all the natural disasters, water wreaks the greatest havoc as it is more frequent and to some extent preventable or predictable. A heavy downpour of two days recording approximately 320 mm of rainfall brought the city to a loathsome standstill. It can’t be completely declared as some extraordinary weather event given the forecasts were in place.
Present condition of Mumbai and the harrowing inconvenience of the commuters has been exacerbated with the dilapidated urban infrastructure that is raising heated debates over urban mismanagement across the nation. One of the reasons for such extraordinary flooding has been explained by the Indian Meteorological Department. Since the soil is already saturated with the wet monsoon, rainfall of this magnitude could not be absorbed. Mumbai had already received 2000 mm of rainfall since June 2017. Moreover, a low-pressure area developed over Madhya Pradesh region led to excess rains. The torrential rainfall has crippled the city and claimed five lives. High-tides have aggravated water-logging in the main city. Educational institutions remain shut and so, do workplaces. Dabbawallas had cancelled their delivery for two days and prices of essential items have soared. Flights too were cancelled or rescheduled as the runway too was flooded. The same goes for several trains. Amidst such large-scale disturbance, rescue work was carried out not just the police authorities but also, local NGOs and civil society members.
For an aspiring metropolis, such devastating condition is both embarrassing as well as worrisome. With the most aptly funded municipality and public administration, such man-made disaster is entirely unacceptable. Lack of preparedness, negligent urban planning, construction of buildings in the non-permitted low-lying areas, choked drains, narrow outlets of water, abhorrent corruption among the contractors, and the irresponsible civic administration are all reasons for this situation. The pumping stations that could’ve provided some respite are malfunctioning. Vulnerability to such weather is sheer disaster mismanagement. With little infrastructure or protocol in place, Mumbai needs to hold its aspirations of becoming a city of global stature.
There have been unfortunate casualties. As evident, the ones who faced the maximum backlash and trouble were the poor, homeless, and disabled. The whole country needs to come forward for their assistance in every possible way. Central and state government needs to take serious note of this gaffe and miscalculation. Compensatory relief steps need to be initiated immediately and a full-fledged disaster management committee has to be set up to inquire into the deluge and suggest appropriate measures to prevent such cataclysmic urban floods in near future.
Article by Mausam.