Mumbai Rains: After BMC clears area, slum colony reappears in stormwater drain

Jun 11, 2018, 07:16 IST | Laxman Singh

After BMC cleared and widened an important drain in Bhandup two years ago, a bunch of shanties started taking it over. This year, the slum has grown so much that the civic body has not even silted the stretch, leading to fears of flooding in the area

Mumbai Rains: After BMC clears area, slum colony reappears in stormwater drain
The slums cover half the width of the drain, reducing its carrying capacity. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Why would anyone build their home in the gutter? While the civic body claims to have desilted and cleaned nullahs thoroughly across the city, mid-day found an entire slum colony blocking a major drain in Bhandup East. The shanties have taken over half the drain. One big shower could be enough to not just submerge the slums, but also flood the whole neighbourhood, all thanks to the obstruction.

According to locals, the shanties cropped up around two years ago, as soon as the BMC had finished widening the drain. The slum dwellers have somehow managed to get illegal power supply, as well as satellite TV connections.

Even when it's not raining, the slums are a point of concern for the locals. Hidden behind the boundary walls of the drain, the slum colony is filled with drunkards, druggies and gambling dens.

Residents afraid
A resident of the neighbourhood said, "Initially, small huts were constructed, but their numbers kept increasing. Soon, they even managed to get electricity connections. Not only have these slums become anti-social dens, but they are obstructing the drain. They have rendered BMC's nullah cleaning exercise futile."

Every year, the civic body spends crores of taxpayers' money on nullah cleaning to ensure that waterlogging does not take place. This year, the BMC awarded contracts of over Rs 100 crore for nullah desilting across the city.

A source in Bhandup said, "It is surprising that BMC officials have not made note of these shanties during their desilting work. In May, JCB machines were brought in to clean the nullah, but they did not touch the shanties and the stretch beyond."

Catchment if you can
The biggest fear remains the threat of floods. The slum dwellers are at highest risk, since heavy rain could end up inundating the drain and submerging their houses. But residents in nearby colonies are also at risk. The catchment area for the drain starts in Bhandup East and goes all the way to Nahur and Kanjur. The nullah drains excess water from the railway culverts, as well as Datar Colony, Uday Shree society, and other residential complexes along the railway tracks. After heavy rains, these localities would often get flooded, so the BMC widened the nullah two years ago under the BRIMSTOWAD (Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage Disposal System) project.

The other side
Santosh Dhonde, assistant municipal commissioner, S ward (Bhandup), said, "I will look into the matter." Officials from Storm Water Drain (SWD) department could not be reached for comment.

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