While the city had been grumbling about the late onset of the monsoons for the past few weeks, the reaction to the season's first heavy showers quickly turned from relief to alarm yesterday, as 25 areas in the city drowned under waterlogged streets and 33 trees came crashing down, putting passersby in peril.

Right on cue, essential services collapsed trains on the central network were running 40 minutes late, while trains on the western line fared slightly better, running around 12 minutes late — and the less said about the harbour line timings the better. The roads weren't any better off than the tracks traffic had to be diverted at many spots so that waterlogged areas could be avoided. All this, with 100 mm rainfall in a day.

The mayhem that the rains unleashed in the city beg some obvious questions why wasn't the BMC ready for the rains, even on this belated date? A few weeks earlier, the civic body claimed it had cleaned 318-kilomitres of nullah, including major and minor ones, and dredged out 3.46 lakh cubic metres of silt.

For this feat, it spent Rs 90 crore from the civic body's kitty in just a month. This effectively means that Rs 90 crore of the taxpayers' money was spent to ‘clean’ a drainage system that overflowed after a few hours of downpour.

This paper had, a few weeks ago, pointed out how the contractors given the task of desilting had kept the dredged out silt in unseemly mounds on the side of the drains. The reporter had predicted that the silt would be washed back into the drains with the first rains — rendering the elaborate and expensive desilting process quite futile.

If there is to be any expectation of uneventful monsoons, cleaning should be spread out through the year and undertaken in at least 3 phases. The money earmarked for the task should also be distributed to the 3 phases, to avoid last minute wastage. For now, the BMC must take responsibility for the damage its negligence caused the city yesterday.