Mumbaikars dread the annual waterlogging and traffic jams. For this monsoon, the Brihanmumbai Muni-cipal Corporation (BMC) aims to reduce the unpredictability. It has a website, Mumbaimonsoon.in, to provide real-time information on weather, traffic and transport conditions. Planned and operated by the BMC’s Disaster Management Cell (DMC), Mumbaimonsoon.in is updated every 15 minutes.
It may be an e-initiative, but most of the work is done by humans at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), where BMC has an array of communication systems, from landlines to “hotlines”, cellphones and wireless equipment. The hotlines connect DMC to 11 other agencies, which regularly update each other. Televisions are tuned to major news channels, so that operators can stay abreast of the latest news. HAM (amateur) radio is available.
To improve rainfall data, and use it to predict and manage waterlogging, BMC has installed 35 new rain gauges at 33 sites from Colaba up to Dahisar. Data from these automated weather stations (AWS) is transmitted to EOC at
15-minute intervals. These AWSs are calibrated to sound the alarm at a certain intensity of rainfall. This threshold is 10 mm in 15 minutes. This data helps BMC in issuing public warning and evacuation alerts.
“We used to take information from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to ascertain the amount of rainfall,” says a DMC official. “But they had gauges at only Santacruz and Colaba and provided updates every 24 hours. Therefore, we decided to have more stations and update citizens on a real-time basis.”
Citizens can see data from these new rain gauges on the website. In case of flooding, they will get notices of delays and diversions in road, rail and air traffic. Rainfall data, organised by municipal ward, is available, but transport information is not, as yet.
Rain gauges are standardised drums, 50 cm tall. Rainwater enters a funnel on top, and runs down into the measuring cylinder below. If the gauge is part of an AWS, the data is transmitted automatically to the data centre.
Mumbaimonsoon.in also provides tide data (the height of low tide and high tide above or below mean sea level). Data for this year and the previous three has been updated. But tide data is not collected live. It is entered manually by DMC personnel, who take the details from a tide data booklet prepared by IMD.
Even traffic updates on the website will be done manually. An EOC official picks up the phone and calls the Traffic Control Room, or a traffic officer on duty. Train, air and bus delays are similarly updated, after phone calls to the concerned officials.
At this point of time the website offers citizen users no scope for online interactivity. You cannot, for example, take a photograph of a traffic jam forming and upload it to the Mumbaimonsoon.in servers. However, helpline numbers are provided, so that people can call in with information on present conditions as well as any disaster or unfolding traffic situation. At the end of each day, a summary of the day’s rainfall information is put up on the website. Officials say they are grateful to citizen users of the website who have been active in giving and procuring information.
“The site has been useful as it has all the information under one roof. It becomes easy to navigate and find relevant information,” said Mukesh Kamble, a 34 year old civil servant based in Mumbai. Even so, the site has seen just 21,784 visitors so far — not impressive, given the nature of the website. Perhaps this will change as the monsoon advances.