The recent flood like situation in Mumbai created havoc and panic among Mumbaikars. Roads and tracks were waterlogged, trains weren’t working, both local as well as long distance, there was no public or private transport and bridges were collapsing. All kinds of public infrastructures were falling apart, leaving Mumbaikars stranded and worried for their lives. In certain parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan region, there was no electricity either. It was raining cats and dogs for more than 4 days. Mumbai received nearly half of its annual rainfall in a matter of 4 days. Reliving 26th July 2005 memories, Mumbaikars were prepared for the worst. Lakes were overflowing and there was no way to contain water. Public life had basically collapsed, no one could or would get out of the house.
This is the same old story for Mumbai every year. One of the biggest and richest municipal corporations in India falters every single monsoon. People every year lose their lives to potholes. Especially in the monsoons, potholes are a matter of life and death, the roads are littered with potholes. Potholes have claimed 11,386 lives during 2013-2018 and the BMC still hasn’t learned its lesson. In the recent flood-like situation, 2 more people lost their lives due to potholes. The financial hub of India where millions of people migrate from all over the country to earn a livelihood has failed to sustain itself in demanding times because of the failure of administrative authorities.
The flood-like situation in Mumbai can be fairly labelled as a man-made disaster. The encroachment on marshy land, the sparse green cover, the pollution in most of the water bodies and cutting down of mangroves have all contributed to this disaster. Already built on reclaimed land, Mumbai is walking on a tightrope. This gross mismanagement can’t be excused. The enormous resources spent on the ‘preparation’ for monsoons has now become a joke. Every year the city is on the brink of drowning, with people waddling through knee deep water, so much so that these flood-like situations have now become normal during monsoons.
Mumbai is not a planned city per say, it has been inhabited by the natives, conquered by the Portuguese, then colonized by the British and finally been a part of independent India. All these cultural influences added their layers in this island province. Mumbai has developed in a linear fashion, unlike the other cities that have grown in 360 degrees. The flaw is not just in the mismanagement of the current structures but in the shoddy planning too. The reclamation of Mumbai came at the cost of filling its swamps. These wetlands are very important for the ecosystem since they prevent flooding by holding water. They act like a sponge by collecting water whenever the land-water level rises and releasing it whenever there is a shortage of it. Additionally, the destruction of the mangroves ecosystem has been a pressing cause for more such disastrous incidences.
The pre-existing infrastructural socio-ecological flaws do not mean that we cannot hold the government agencies accountable. The encroachment of the No Development Zones (NDZ) and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) has reduced the green cover, making Mumbai all the more vulnerable to more such environmental casualties. The metro lines that are going to be constructed all over Mumbai are going to eat up wetland patches, forest areas, and open spaces. The scope for development and redevelopment has opened up a lot of these green areas to exploitation and decay, and even cluttered much of the Arabian sea. The BMC instead of concentrating on ecological restoration, is focusing on the planning of infrastructural projects. The seas gave back when on the Marine drive, 9 tonnes of garbage was thrown back on the streets during the high tide. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fishes in the sea. The grim reality of the status of our planet still doesn’t seem to deter the populace and the government agencies from taking strict corrective action. It’s high time that environmental agencies are given more importance than the deep-pocketed industries that suck up all the resources for monetary gains.
We as humans feel that we are way more evolved and are the fittest amongst the various animal species. Just because try to control the environment and external surroundings, doesn’t make us any more evolved or better than other species. This tug of war between man and nature will only lead to many more incidents of such man-made disasters. Time and again, humankind has always been defeated in their quest for conquering nature. Our planet can be more resilient, not by taking up more techno-development projects but rather by facilitating ecological restoration.
Picture Credits: ABC