Heavy rains pounded Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Wednesday, causing floods in low-lying areas and cancellation of local train services, delaying flights and slowing road traffic.
The current spells over the last 24 hours is expected to continue till Friday, and has already brought the city’s public transport system to a standstill. Mumbai’s suburban trains, the city’s lifeblood, stood on their inundated tracks for most of the day, leaving commuters to wade through deep water across tracks to seek alternative arrangements. Other options such as ride hailing services by Uber and Ola too largely remained unavailable and the few which were plying remained beyond the reach of many, thanks to spiralling “surge pricing” charged by the operators.
Both incoming and outgoing flights from the Mumbai airport were delayed as heavy rains affected operations. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), many weather stations in Mumbai have recorded more than 20mm of rainfall in last 24 hours and there could be another heavy spell of rains in the next 24 hours, especially over north Konkan and central Maharashtra. However, a red alert for Mumbai has been withdrawn for Thursday.
While the forecast for the next 24 hours offers relief for daily commuters, the water logging brings the focus back on Mumbai’s inadequate and antiquated infrastructure. While commuters in the Maximum City have grown accustomed to the daily pangs of inordinate traffic snarls due to excessive congestion in the arterial roads, the city’s infrastructure upgrade plans continue to face delays due to myriad issues, both regulatory, political and financial. The Brihanmumbai Stormwater Disposal System which was originally designed in 1896 is yet to see full implementation of next recommendations of expert committees. The list of measures suggested in the immediate aftermath of devastating floods of 2005 include completion of cross-drainage works and removal of obstruction to storm water drains, de-silting of waterways, clean up of debris, effective waste disposal and pragmatic and decisive approach to dealing with encroachments in the embankments.
Work on the ₹14,000 crore coastal road project which could potentially cut the pressure on the city’s roads has been stayed by the Mumbai high court till fresh environment clearances and notifications are obtained after a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Work on the long-pending project had started in October, after the Union ministry of environment and forests issued the last clearance in May 2017. The high court quashed various environmental approvals granted by the state and Union governments.
As of Wednesday, monsoon rainfall remains in excess over nine of 36 sub-divisions mostly in the states along the Western coast- Madhya Maharashtra, Konkan-Goa, Saurashtra and Kutch and North Interior Karnataka. Madhya Maharashtra has received surplus rains to the tune of 52%, while it is remains 40% for Konkan and Goa.