These pictures tell a different story
All geared up for the menacing monsoon, with your umbrellas, rain jackets, gumboots and mosquito repellents? Good, because BMC isn't. While the civic body claims it has completed 85 per cent of the desilting work of drains in the city, an inquest by MiD DAY indicates the assertion is greatly exaggerated.
Experts who visited several nullahs along with these reporters are of the opinion that only 61 per cent of the task has been realised. The silt and garbage festering in these drains are the prime reason for waterlogging in low-lying areas of Mumbai. Team MiD DAY, along with ex-BMC official Bhalchandra Patil and activist James John from Action for good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI), visited over 15 major nullahs in the city. On evidence, many of them had not even been touched by the civic body’s contractors, who are appointed to desilt the drains.
“The same principle is used every year, wherein 70 per cent of the work is done before monsoon, 20 per cent during the rainy season, and 10 per cent afterwards. But this year, 93 per cent of the work is scheduled to be completed before monsoon, while the remaining would be done during the rains,” informed a senior official from the civic body. But this seems to be a distant dream. Chamdawadi Nullah in Bandra (East) was seemingly untouched. Gazdarband Nullah in Andheri was full of silt and other floating refuse, which results in clogging of the outfalls. Silt had been removed from the Laxmibaug Nullah, Ghatkopar, but was kept on the edge of the drain itself, and is likely to be washed back into the ditch on the first day of rainfall.
“This is the case with many of the nullahs that we have seen. What’s the use of desilting them? They again clog up the outfall into the sea,” said Bhalchandra Patil. Some of the major drains like Pratiksha Nagar Nullah and Irla Nullah, would create flooding of the adjoining areas if not cleared soon, informed the experts.
One question uppermost on almost every Mumbaikar’s mind is whether Milan Subway would be flooded this year too. When Team MiD DAY visited Gobar Nullah, two workers were cleaning out the smaller outfall on one side of the road and clearing the cow dung and fodder wedged in the drain. But on the other side, excrement was floating over the water and silt was lying below. “The drain is desilted, but officials have to make sure the cow dung is removed. If they don’t do so then the outfall would get bunged as the floating waste is also caught up in it. They have to clean it up soon,” said Patil.
The cleanest and the best managed appeared to be Lele nullah in Andheri (East), which is connected to Mithi River. The retaining walls were well built, the culverts had been cleared of silt and garbage, due to which the water flow was satisfactory. “We met BMC officials regularly and kept a check on the work. They even built a slope for the machine to enter the drain and clear the silt. Otherwise they generally dump a heap of debris and the machine passes through it. The work needs to be planned for the future and not only one particular year. The main aim is to see the culvert waste-free and the bedrock should be visible, which indicate the desilting has been done well,” said John, who manages 21 major nullahs in K-East Ward on behalf of AGNI.
The civic administration, however, claimed it has almost completed the desilting work in the city. “We are near completion of our job. Gobar Nullah, Chamdawadi Nullah, Dadar-Dharavi Nullah have been cleaned. But people throw waste into the nullahs, treating them like dumping grounds,” said Laxman Vhatkar, chief engineer of storm water drain department. He also said that if they identify the problem spots visited by MiD DAY, they would take action before monsoon.
Dadar-Dharavi Nullah, Matunga Labour Camp
Time: 8.30 am
What MiD DAY found: There was about two feet of silt inside the drain and it had not been cleaned acceptably.
Experts say: BP Patil: This nullah may have been cleaned earlier, but it has to be desilted again.
James John: Partial desilting has been done, but work has to be completed as there are hutments adjoining the nullah embankments.
Chamdawadi Nullah, near Indira Nagar slum
Time: 8.50 am
What MiD DAY found: The nullah has not been cleaned this year. It was brimming with floating garbage and silt.
Experts say: BP Patil: It seems the nullah is already flooded and has not been attended to.
James John: Desilting may have been done in some parts of the nullah. Its depth is around 2 1/2 feet, but we could find a depth of around 1 to 1 1/2 feet only. That means there is a good quantity of silt inside.
Vakola Nullah, Santacruz (E)
Time: 9.45 am
What MiD DAY found: Though BMC has done some cleaning work, silt was lying nearby, which may be washed back into the drain during a downpour.
Experts say: BP Patil: First, the silt lying nearby should be removed before the monsoon starts and some of the portion of the nullah needs cleaning.
James John: It has been desilted, but a lot more silt can still be removed from the nullah.
Gobar Nullah, near Milan Subway, Santacruz (E)
Time: 10.35 am
What MiD DAY found: When we inserted an iron rod into the nullah, we found about 2 feet of a layer of dung on the top and about 2 feet of silt at the bottom of the nullah.
Experts say: BP Patil: This is a problem spot and needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, at least once a week.
James John: It’s in extremely poor state and needs urgent and regular attention.
Gazdarband Nullah, opposite SNDT, Andheri
Time: 11.50 am
What MiD DAY found: BMC has done some work, but silt has not been adequately cleaned.
Experts say: BP Patil: The nullah needs scraping on the sides and some more cleaning. It also needs regular attention.
James John: Desilting has been done by using boat, but still a good amount of silt is there. Side scraping has also not been done. There’s lot of scope for improvement.
Ramchandra Nullah, Laxmi Indl Estate, Malad
Time: 12.45 pm
What MiD DAY found: The cleaning work was going with a Poclain machine.
Experts say: BP Patil: Work is progressing well, but the other side of the nullah needs attention.
James John: It seems to be all right, but has scope for improvement.
Mithi River, Andheri-Kurla road
Time: 2.30 pm
What MiD DAY found: Cleaning work was going on in the river, but a rock was impeding the flow of water.
Experts say: BP Patil: Though the desilting work is good, the rock in between should be removed as early as possible.
James John: Desilting can be done better and the foliage should be removed.
Laxmibaug Nullah, EEH, Ghatkopar
Time: 3.15 pm
What MiD DAY found: The silt removed from other parts of the nullah had been dumped near its mouth, adjacent to the highway.
Experts say: BP Patil: Good amount of silt can still be removed, 12 pipe drains that are blocked can be used for discharge in case of heavy waterlogging.
James John: The silt dumped near the nullah should be removed, else it would again go down the drain and it would be a waste of public money.
Pratiksha Nagar Nullah, Bhakti Park, Wadala
Time: 04.05 pm
What MiD DAY found: The nullah crosses below the highway, but the mouth of the culvert has been shrinking due to some incomplete work.
Experts say: BP Patil: Realignment work of the culvert has been carried out but left incomplete.
James John: Work on the nullah is in progress. But the outlet is not yet clean, nor does it presently have a proper opening for discharge.
Spots of bother
BMC this year has identified 213 flooding spots in the city of which 40 are chronic flooding spots. According to BMC data, every year, the chronic spots include Milan Subway, Hindmata Junction, Sion Road no 24, Andheri Subway, Khar Subway, Chembur’s Shell Colony, Irla, Vile Parle, Bandrekar Wadi, Navrang Cinema, JP Road, Milan Subway, VM Road, JVPD, Motilal Nagar, Cama Industrial Estate, SV Road, Dahisar Chowk, Thakur Complex, Nehru Nagar, LBS Marg, Gavanpada, Central Railway subway. The civic body has planned to install over 230 de-watering pumps across the 213 flooding spots. Some flooding spots will have more than two pumps, officials said.
The civic body has 200.254 km of major nullahs, 129.266 km of minor nullahs, 151.13 km of arch/box drains, 1,986.98 km of roadside open drains, 565.411 km of closed pipe drains and 30,208 water entrances.
Situation of water pumping stations:
Irla Cost: Rs 77 crore
Catchment area: 950 hectares (JVPD, DN Nagar, Milan Subway etc)
Haji Ali, Worli Cost: Rs 58 crore
Catchment area: 400 hectares (Nana Chowk, Peddar Road, Slater Road, Tardeo Road etc)
Work in Progress Love Grove, Worli
Cost: Rs 115 crore
Catchment area: 900 acres (Crawford Market, Mohammed Ali Road etc)
Cost: Rs 102 crore
Catchment area: 1,100 hectares (Worli, Koliwada, Hindamata, Dadar, Senapati Bapat Marg)
Britannia, Reay Road and Gazdarband (Santacruz)
Collective cost: Rs 125 crore
Status: Tender processed, but no response, so now re-tendering
Mahul, Anik Depot and Mogra Nullah (Andheri)