Blog on Indian Economics, Personal Views and Interests

Floods in Mumbai, mockery of the sprirt

Rain causes flood in Mumbai - 29 August 2017


For those who know me, also know that I ended up marrying a stranger I met during the floods of 2005 in Mumbai. It was a dark day, for many who lost lives of loved ones and a livelihood. Some passed away in extremely precarious circumstances, completely avoidable. I have often wondered why Mumbai has this strange connection with floods and rain?

Sure, floods or any other natural or human-made calamity has always brought the citizens together. The bond of a Mumbaikar is seen, often during such unfortunate circumstances. The never dying, ever famous Spirit of Mumbai!

Does Mumbai hate rain because of floods?

For starters, no Mumbaikar’s do not hate rain. Not because of anything to do with rain itself. It is, because of how city transforms itself into after a heavy rain. Choc-a-block traffic snarls, back breaking potholes, speed breakers and general public tendency to skip following rules. The last bit is people’s making, and that gets amplified when they need to get home as soon as possible given the situation. Rather, unfortunate.

Mumbai attracts rain, and it is often bad and sometimes ends up in floods. The sub-urban railway system or the local train is always under stress during rains. Huge delays in train services are common place when it rains heavily. Every year, BMC and other agencies that are supposed to do good work for the city, fail to do so. The most common excuse is the rain itself.

So why is Mumbai failing every time?

This year, Radio Jockey Malishka, released a song in a format that has been trending – “Mumbai tula BMC var bharosa nahi ka.” It invoked the ire of BMC’s ruling party members who came up with a response in the same format. It was pathetic, to say the least. It included slur, a threat and it came from a senior leader of the party. BMC also served Malishka’s mother a notice for breeding Mosquitoes at her apartment, as a result.

Mumbaikar’s spirit it unfathomable. They have come up to help themselves right in every instance there has been a natural or human made calamity. So in that sense, Mumbai has never failed. The people who are supposed to be managing Mumbai, the Brahin Municipal Corporation (BMC), India Meteorological Department (IMD) and many other have collectively failed over many times.

One of the things many of us who watched the movie Home Alone 3 have noticed how the little boy Alex lies to his mother about the terrible weather she is about to encounter so that he can drive her away from home. The American counterpart of IMD has always predicted the weather right. Well, at least in movies. Hence, the expectations that IMD comes up right are always up.

IMD has consistently failed to predict the rains. They never were able to predict the floods in 2005, and not in 2017. Or anytime in between. The joke often goes like “If IMD says carry your Umbrella today, then you don’t need to because it rained yesterday.” The same thing happened on 29th of August, 2017. They issued an emergency alert for 30th of August, 2017 and stated that heavy to very heavy rains can be expected. It was largely a sunny day.

Floods can be avoided, should it not?

Of course. Else, why will a few of us be up in arms against this pathetic situation? If Mumbai roads can fail, ideally all of the highways near Mumbai should also meet the same fate. But they don’t. Potholes have made the roads miserable. The drive/ride is pathetic and bumpy. But Highways are smooth enough.

Garbage collection is still worst at its best. The very Mumbaikar also contributes by throwing waste at all possible places. Prime Minister Modi’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyan has some effect, not significant enough to help Mumbaikar’s from themselves.

Being the richest Civic body in India, BMC generates annual income in taxes and others fees to the tune of Rs. 37,000 crore. Seriously though, it’s hard to see where it went. Rs. 37,000 crore should have ensured futuristic mode of transportation for its citizens. Plus, Mumbai’s contribution to the direct tax (income tax) is also the highest in India by any city.

So where does the money go?

It is an interesting question; isn’t it? I have often been wondering the same thing. Most of it goes in corruption. There is an ambitious project to clean Mithi River (if you can call it a river indeed) every year, and we see hardly an impact. Well, there are encroachments alongside the bank of the rivers in many places which make it difficult to clean, the river also carries a lot of waste from all areas it flows.

The other problem is an issue that cannot be improved. Mumbai happened from reclaimed lands on the sea between 7 islands in the mid-18th century. The Hornby Vellard project reshaped Bombay into its current form.

Add to that, lack of garbage dumping grounds does not make BMC efficient in its methods. The nexus is so strong that it is often difficult to fight them and sustain your life. If a Radio Jockey can get a notice served for breeding malaria causing mosquitoes at her house, anything can happen.

It is appalling that Mumbai gets this step motherly treatment then? Share this page with your friends and family! Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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