Flood Free Mumbai? Only if This Was Completed

Mumbai: Friday's flooding of Mumbai has brought the focus back on BRIMSTOWAD, the BrihanMumbai Storm Water Disposal System, which has seen cost escalation and delays. Under the system, launched after the disastrous 2005 floods, the government plans to upgrade the city's 100-year-old drainage system and construct new pumping stations.

"We have delayed this for years and it is criminal. There is no excuse for the delay. The BMC (BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation) is one of the richest civic bodies and they cannot say lack of funding caused the delay," Urban planning and design expert Ashok Datar told NDTV.

While four pumping stations like the Love Grove, Cleveland, Haji Ali and Irla have been completed, two more are to be completed by the end of the year. However, increasing the width of drainage network has only happened in South Mumbai and a major part of this work remains incomplete.

"We are increasing pipeline diametres from 25 mm to 50 mm. Where we build new roads we are making them even larger. These problems cannot be solved overnight but we have to do them in phases so that we do not inconvenience Mumbaikars," said Aditya Thackeray, the chief of the youth wing of Shiv Sena which controls the BMC.

A 2013 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General said that only 30 per cent of the work has been completed with cost escalations over Rs 2000 crore. This delay, the national auditor pointed out, is responsible for the city's flooding.

But Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas said, "If we try to remove even one slum the people go to court and other appellate bodies and get stay orders. But where we have been able to remove encroachments and undertake drainage widening works, there was no flooding yesterday."

The BMC also points out that over 90 per cent of the rainfall that Mumbai receives is discharged into the sea through drains. Given Mumbai's unplanned growth, encroachments and lack of open spaces hardly anything is absorbed by the ground. This means that if unusually heavy rains occur, the drainage system of the city crumbles under the pressure - something that BRIMSTOWAD hopes to resolve.