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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 33, August 12, 2023

From Plight to Solution: Tackling Mumbai’s Infrastructure Woes | S. N. Tripathy

Saturday 12 August 2023

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As the financial capital of India, the city of Mumbai finds itself entangled in a web of dire infrastructure challenges, including deteriorated roads, a woeful drainage system, and insufficient maintenance hole upkeep, all of which have intensified the plight of its inhabitants, particularly during periods of torrential rainfall. Mumbai’s rain-soaked roads, added challenge of congested streets and heavy traffic, transform into perilous pathways.

Infrastructure Predicament:

Mumbai’s neglected and dilapidated road network, plagued by treacherous potholes and craters, poses a danger to commuters, causing damage to vehicles and endangering the safety of travelers while inconveniencing its residents. Recent surveys reveal that a staggering 70% of Mumbai’s roads have fallen into a state of degradation, characterized by the ubiquitous presence of potholes and cracks, resulting in prolonged travel times, increased vehicle damage, and a heightened risk of accidents. The adverse consequences of road deterioration also manifest in the form of severe congestion, causing commuters to endure an average delay of 5-6 hours per week, further exacerbating the strain on the city’s transportation infrastructure. The unceasing downpour exacerbates the deterioration of already weakened road surfaces, leading to enduring harm that not only disrupts everyday existence but also obstructs emergency services and impedes the seamless operation of the metropolis.

The deleterious impact of corruption at the implementation level, exclusively within the expanse of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, with an annual budget of over Rs 45,000 crore, the BMC is known as the richest civic body in Asia has indubitably cast a somber shadow upon the stressed populace of the metropolis [1], [2], [3], [4]

Known for its precipitous downpours during the monsoon season, Mumbai finds itself ensnared in the treacherous grip of ill-prepared drainage infrastructure, sorely deficient in its ability to accommodate the prodigious annual precipitation measuring a staggering 2,500 mm. The lamentable reality materializes with disquieting statistics: a paltry drainage capacity, beleaguered by its incapacity to assuage the deluge, capitulates under the weight of a mere 200 mm per diem, leaving in its wake an alarming 40% swathes of the city submerged in the unholy waters of waterlogging, exacting upon its beleaguered residents a harrowing toll of inconvenience and disruption, thus regrettably punctuating their quotidian existence with profound anguish.

During heavy downpours, the inadequate drainage system presents numerous challenges, particularly in low-lying areas that are vulnerable to flooding. Within the environs of Mumbai, it is estimated that a considerable populace finds its dwelling amidst the precincts of Hindmata, Dadar; Andheri Subway; Kurla East and West; King’s Circle, Matunga; Parel; Sion; Santa Cruz; Bandra; Malad; and Chembur. These districts, renowned for their susceptibility to inundation during turbulent deluges, pose an arduous plight for the slum-dwelling denizens who encounter augmented vulnerability, entangled by an insufficiency of infrastructure and meager access to rudimentary amenities. To avert further hardships and establish an environment more appropriate to egalitarian habitation, it behooves us to accord primacy to the safety and well-being of these slum dwellers amidst the intense downpours.

With no escape route for the excess water, streets become hazardous zones, increasing the risk of accidents, and contributing to traffic congestion for pedestrians and motorists alike. Furthermore, the seepage of water into buildings worsens the situation, posing structural damage concerns and compromising the safety of residents, who then bear the financial burden of repairs and maintenance. The dire need for a comprehensive overhaul and expansion of Mumbai’s drainage system becomes evident as the current infrastructure struggles to cope with the monsoon deluge.

The inclement torrents that beset Mumbai also unveil a disconcerting quandary, namely the disgusting plight of maintenance holes. The lamentable byproduct of neglect and sporadic oversight, these subterranean cracks metamorphose into veritable chasms of peril, engendering tragic incidents wherein hapless souls unwittingly succumb to grievous harm or even the lamentable embrace of mortality. The expeditious redressal of these hazards and the primacy accorded to citizen welfare demand, in no uncertain terms, the ascendancy of regular maintenance and reparatory endeavors. Furthermore, the installation of robust covers assumes paramount importance, erecting an invulnerable bulwark of safeguarding that palpably diminishes the specter of accidents synonymous with maintenance holes.

The pressing predicament concerning maintenance holes in Mumbai assumes a truly grave tenor, for the surreptitiously open or shattered covers of these cracks have engendered myriad tragedies, instigating untold injuries and irretrievable loss of life. Indeed, the intricate annals of the past year have regrettably borne witness to a staggering deluge of over 500 reported incidents inexorably fastened to maintenance hole mishaps, thereby providing an ominous clarion call that tolerates no delay, compelling society’s immediate response to this burgeoning crisis.

The Plight of the People:

The relentless downpours that beset Mumbai, in conjunction with the degradation plaguing its thoroughfares and the perilous state of its drainage infrastructure, have unleashed untold havoc upon the lives of its harassed inhabitants. The resultant quagmire of traffic congestion engenders not only an unconscionable wastefulness of precious time but also a destructive erosion of productivity, whilst pedestrians are entangled in the arduous task of navigating waterlogged thoroughfares, where the specter of peril looms large. Regrettably, the ripples of this crisis vibrate through the fabric of society, casting an ominous pall over vital services such as healthcare, education, and public transportation, which stand grievously disrupted, thereby propelling the relentless march of socio-economic disparities to ever more exposed heights.

However, the terrible brunt of this disaster is borne most acutely by the communities existing on the margins of society, particularly those hidden within the slums settled amidst low-lying regions sorrowing of a commensurate drainage apparatus. These marginalized enclaves confront the weeping reality of acute scarcity, whereby clean water, sanitation facilities, and even basic access to electricity remain but fleeting illusions. This chronic deprivation engenders a veritable container of augmented health risks and unyielding privation, which the most vulnerable among them are constrained to endure in apathetic acceptance. Adding further agony to their plight, the woeful absence of effective disaster management mechanisms renders them bereft of support and aid, thereby consigning them to a state of desperate desolation, as the ravages of their circumstances remain unabated and their cries for assistance go unheeded.

The huge reservoirs of official data lay bare the recurring annual toll inflicted upon the struggling residents of Mumbai by the specter of insufficient infrastructure. In grim detail, it elucidates how the inundation ravages over 12,000 families with unyielding immunity, relegating them to the heart-wrenching consequences of property emptiness, the annihilation of livelihoods, and the ominous specter of waterborne maladies looming ever larger. The ramifications, extending far beyond mere material loss, strike at the very core of daily existence, compelling the termination of scholastic pursuits, triggering the closing of hospitals, and challenging an incalculable toll upon the delicate fabric of commerce, as enterprises are left with no recourse but to surrender to the ravages of these uncontrolled inundations.

The arrogant authoritative of fostering collaboration amongst the city authorities, urban planners, and engineers vibrates with resounding clarity as Mumbai grapples with the urgent need to forge robust and enduring solutions that shall pave the way towards a Mumbai that is stimulated in its resilience and safeguarded from the vicissitudes of a whimsical climate. This undeniable call to action entails a constant focus on upgrading the drainage networks, constructing pipelines of a more voluminous nature, and competently implementing comprehensive disaster management strategies that shall serve as the bulwark against the violent onslaughts of nature’s whims.

Conclusion:

By prioritizing and diligently implementing these well-planned endeavors, Mumbai can strengthen its ability to withstand heavy rain, reduce the harmful effects of flooding, alleviate the difficulties faced by its residents, and create a safe and secure environment even during challenging weather conditions. It is essential for the city’s leaders to develop and maintain a carefully designed infrastructure that protects the well-being and prosperity of Mumbai and its people, navigating through the complexities of the ever-changing weather patterns with resilience and foresight.

It is imperative that swift and all-encompassing measures be undertaken, encompassing heightened investments in infrastructure development, diligent upkeep, and the deployment of efficacious drainage systems, to address these pressing concerns. Nevertheless, the inextricable interdependence of combating corruption and ensuring judicious utilization of funds earmarked for infrastructural advancements assumes paramount importance in augmenting the efficacy, durability, and overall capability of Mumbai’s essential framework.

(Author: Dr. S. N. Tripathy, Former Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, Maharashtra, India | Email: sn_tripathy2004[at]yahoo.com)

1. Chaitanya Marpakwar
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toireporter/author-Chaitanya-Marpakwar-479217787.cms The times of India, June 16, 2022
2. Mumbai: In five years, 55 corrupt BMC workers fired https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/mumbai-in-five-years-55-corrupt-bmc-workers-fired-23268224 01 February 2023
Since 2017, the civic body has also suspended 53 staffers in connection with bribery cases, 81 others named in various criminal cases. March 25, 2023.
3. CAG report reveals corruption and lack of transparency in Mumbai Municipal Corporation https://www.lokmattimes.com/maharashtra/cag-report-reveals-corruption-and-lack-of-transparency-in-mumbai-municipal-corporation/
4 CAG report reveals corruption and lack of transparency in Mumbai Municipal Corporation https://www.lokmattimes.com/maharashtra/cag-report-reveals-corruption-and-lack-of-transparency-in-mumbai-municipal-corporation/


[1Chaitanya Marpakwar
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toireporter/author-Chaitanya-Marpakwar-479217787.cms The times of India, June 16, 2022

[2Mumbai: In five years, 55 corrupt BMC workers fired https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/mumbai-in-five-years-55-corrupt-bmc-workers-fired-23268224 01 February 2023
Since 2017, the civic body has also suspended 53 staffers in connection with bribery cases, 81 others named in various criminal cases. March 25, 2023.

[3CAG report reveals corruption and lack of transparency in Mumbai Municipal Corporation https://www.lokmattimes.com/maharashtra/cag-report-reveals-corruption-and-lack-of-transparency-in-mumbai-municipal-corporation/

[4CAG report reveals corruption and lack of transparency in Mumbai Municipal Corporation https://www.lokmattimes.com/maharashtra/cag-report-reveals-corruption-and-lack-of-transparency-in-mumbai-municipal-corporation/

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