Heavy rains expose Mumbai’s vulnerability to flooding yet again

Despite massive water-logging every year, India’s commercial capital is dragging its feet on finding sustainable solutions to the problem

By Shreeshan Venkatesh
Published: Saturday 20 June 2015

Heavy rains have lashed Mumbai over the past 24 hours, playing havoc with life in the metro. The city has been brought to a standstill with low-lying areas worst hit by water-logging and flooding. Transport and telecom services have been crippled by water-logging across the city. Maharashtra government has issued an advisory to all residents, asking them to not venture out unless necessary.

Flooding of railway tracks has affected regular suburban rail services. While trains on the Harbour line have stopped plying, service on a substantial stretch of the Central (main) line has also been suspended. Trains on the Western line are running with long delays. Long distance trains have, however, resumed services.

Air travel has also been disrupted as several flights taking off from and arriving at the Mumbai airport have registered delays. Several BEST buses plying in the city have altered their routes to avoid areas that have reported high levels of flooding.

Government-run schools have remained shut while some private schools are still running. Office-goers have been asked to stay at home. Bombay High Court has also declared a holiday. The Mumbai electricity board has cut power supply to several water-logged areas of the city considering public safety.

The city has been witnessing high tides of up to 4.5 metres over the last few days. Several areas could face further water-logging as high tides are likely to prevent the flood water from draining into the sea.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Disaster Management office and met its chief secretary to take stock of the situation. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has also come forward to aid rescue operations and is sending teams across the city.

BMC’s rain-preparedness has come under scathing criticism with social media being flooded with pictures of water-logged roads and homes. The Shiv Sena-controlled civic body had earlier claimed that Mumbai was rain-ready after investing over Rs 200 crore in building a new pumping station to pump out rain water during high tides and heavy rainfall.

According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), the city has seen an average of 283 mm of rainfall since the heavy spell started. The weather monitoring department has announced that heavy rains are likely to hit the western coast over the next three days.

Mumbai experiences severe water-logging every year. The worst flood to hit the city was on July 26, 2005, which claimed 546 lives and caused huge damage to property. Since then, several high-level deliberations and heavy expenditure to improve rain water drainage have proved largely deficient. Rapid urbanisation and unplanned development are causing floods in many other Indian cities.

Read: Urban floods: lessons from Jammu & Kashmir

Mumbai marooned: an enquiry into Mumbai floods 2005 - final report

Developing innovative strategies for flood-resilient cities

City profile: climate and disaster resilience

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