Natural Disasters

Mumbai once again on the verge of deluge, but why?

Heavy rains expose Mumbai’s vulnerability and the city’s preparedness repeatedly comes under criticism. Despite witnessing waterlogging every year, the city, like other urban centres, is not rain-ready

By Sushmita Sengupta, Shreeshan Venkatesh
Last Updated: Wednesday 30 August 2017

A repeat of 2005 floods

Heavy rains came back to haunt Mumbai and its neighbouring districts after four days of incessant rainfall led to a flood-like situation. The Colaba weather station, which covers south Mumbai, recorded 37.6 mm of rain from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm today. The total rainfall between Monday and Tuesday morning was 152 mm—the highest 24-hour rainfall this year. The Santacruz weather station, which covers the suburbs, recorded 126 mm rain from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm today. In the past 36 hours, Santacruz weather station recorded more than 216 mm of rain, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

In fact, several parts of Konkan recorded heavy to very heavy rain. Between Monday and Tuesday morning, Alibaug recording 161mm of rainfall, while rainfall in the regions such as Dahanu (190 mm), Harnai (180 mm) and Mahabaleshwar (170 mm) far surpassed the volume of rain that Mumbai witnessed. Navi Mumbai, too, received 119.85 mm rain in the past 24 hours.

According to the IMD, the incessant rain since Monday is a result of westward movement of low-pressure area that had developed over Odisha and southwest Madhya Pradesh. The latter is likely to concentrate into a depression during next 24 hours. The Konkan coast, including Mumbai, expects widespread rainfall during next 48 hours.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has given the warning of heavy rainfall in Mumbai and its suburbs at least in the next 24 hours. In the past 12 hours, rain has already flooded some low-lying areas and water-logging on tracks has started delaying trains. The heavy spell caused waterlogging in Sion, Lower Parel, Dadar, Mumbai Central, Andheri, Kurla and Sakinaka, which ultimately resulted in slowing down of the traffic. The Met department has advised people not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. Mumbai airport has suspended operations.

When the maximum city was marooned

Credit: State of India’s urban water bodies While here had been warnings a breakdown in the life of Mumbai due to schemes like Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Bandra-Kurla Complex—which was built on mangroves— or the Bandra-Worli Sea Link—which narrowed the mouth of the Mithi river—no one paid heed to those warnings.  A report by the Concerned Citizens’ Commission observed that “the future of Mumbai is being strangulated by the politician-builder nexus, which has vitiated even the redevelopment of slums”. The administration, on the other hand, lacked early warning devices and rudimentary equipment like boats. Read the full report

How did 2005 Mumbai floods happen?

The worst flood to hit the city was on July 26, 2005. It claimed 546 lives and caused huge damage to property. Just like cases of other urban floods, Mumbai’s flooding woes have their genesis in rapid urbanisation and unplanned development. While a record 994 mm (37.2 inches) of rain within 24 hours, was a concern, it is the lack of improved rain water drainage system that turned it into a tragedy. Read the full story


2015 Chennai floods  

Just 10 years after Mumbai floods, Chennai witnessed the worst flooding in its history. More than 500 people were killed and over 1.8 million people were displaced. Between November 11 and 18 in 2015, the capital of Tamil Nadu received 449.9 mm of rain—a 329 per cent rise against the normal rainfall of 104.9 mm. But what fomented trouble was a total disconnect between hydrology and urban planning. The recharge structures like lakes, tanks, ponds and other wetlands were tampered with real estate mafia usurping water bodies for illegal construction. Shrinking lake area and blocked drains reduced Chennai's capacity to drain rainfall runoff. Read the full story

What’s common to Mumbai and Chennai floods?

Almost all the urban centres in the country are at the risk of floods today, thanks to unfettered urbanisation and depletion of water bodies in urban areas. This book shows the problem of urban floods with case studies and explores the need for immediate action to conserve and revive our water bodies. As floods continue to ravage urban India, the solution, according to the book, lies in rethinking our urban planning. Grab your copy of the book

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