Mumbai is still shaken by the death of Dr Deepak Amrapurkar, a top gastroenterologist who slipped into an open manhole in Lower Parel during the floods of August 29. After a 36-hour search, his body emerged in Worli, making his death the defining tragedy of the city's day of torment.
One thing is evident, the manhole problem needs urgent and immediate attention. The authorities say that they are not to blame for the open manhole and it is the locals who had removed the manhole cover. But it has become imperative that we come up with a solution for manholes and sewers, which pose a perennial problem on days of heavy rainfall and water-logging. Is it not possible for manholes and sewers to be fitted with covers that can only be removed by authorised personnel? Is there some kind of locking system that is foolproof, effective and safe? One fails to fathom why a country that can send people to the moon, cannot seem to get the hang of a basic civic system so that tragedies of this magnitude are avoided.
As the rains intensify, the authorities need to station their people or at least put caution signs at manholes. These cannot be the rickety sticks with a piece of cloth, which is what we saw this time. Have special equipment made for the Mumbai monsoon. Tough, all-weather signage that peeks over waist-high water to warn passers-by that there is a manhole ahead, closed or open. Do not rely on shouting to alert people. Sometimes, these sounds are drowned out by rushing water and cars. Use flashing lights to grab attention. A complete monsoon disaster package made with technology needs to be handed to the police, BMC and other agencies that are pressed into service during the rains. There can be no more dilly-dallying, or the consequences will be disastrous.
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