The civic authorities may have blamed unprecedented rainfall for disrupting normal life in Mumbai, but experts have blamed an unfinished drainage project for the chaos the city faces annually because of monsoon rains. The Brimstowad Project, which was started after the 2005 deluge killed 1094 people, is aimed at overhauling Mumbai's 19th century drains. It is yet to be completed. The Mumbai civic authorities have stated several reasons for the delay, including encroachment and litigation.
Experts from the Mumbai Vikas Samiti, a group of retired engineers and experts say that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) must finish the project on a war footing to prevent the city from coming to a standstill annually. Of the 58 works of widening drains and augmenting the drainage planned over two phases, 27 have been completed and rest remain unfinished, according to the BMC flood guideline report 2019.
Civic officials have blamed encroachment along the drains as a major reason for the delay.
The BMC is also yet to procure land for two of the eight pumping stations planned under the project for draining water in Mahul and Mogra, according to civic officials. Officials say unless the Mahul station begins to work, preventing flooding in areas like Sion, Kurla and Matunga is impossible. Citizens had to wade through waist-deep water in these areas even on Monday.
A storm water drains department official said the land for Mogra pumping station is under litigation as there is a dispute between two owners. "The court asked us to pay the value of the land, Rs 42 crore, which will be given to the owner after the dispute is resolved. As for Mahul, the land is in possession of the salt commissioner and we are in talks with higher authorities for procuring the land," said the official on condition of anonymity. The officer added after procuring the land, BMC will have to undertake the process of survey, soil investigation which will take long time.
The capacity of the drains will increase from withstanding 25mm rainfall per hour to 50 mm rainfall per hour only when the Brimstowad Project is complete, according to officials. On Monday, Mumbai's western and the eastern suburbs received an average rainfall of 329 mm and 309 mm. The cost of Brimstowad Project was estimated to be Rs 1,200 crore in 2006, it has now crossed over Rs 4,000 crore, according to BMC reports.
Mumbai Vikas Samiti member, AV Shenoy, said the project should have been undertaken on a war footing and completed in five years. "Today, it has been 14 years and there has been tremendous growth in the suburbs where natural waterways have reduced and percolation is less causing flooding on roads. Completion of the project is the only permanent solution to this problem."