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Warning after a flood

The city's geography is intertwined with its structural history - reclamation

Business Standard 

With reference to the report, “India’s Houston: Heavy rain paralyses Mumbai; flights, trains hit” (August 30), the city is virtually an island. When heavy rains coincide with high tides, it leads to disaster. No power on earth can control tides. The city’s geography is intertwined with its structural history — reclamation. 
The city, a group of seven islands, was made one landmass through reclamation through the 18th and 20th centuries. But only the minimum height required then was adhered to. Now, these reclaimed areas have become low-lying spots that turn into water bodies when there is rain. 
Till the 1970s, the ground was able to absorb rain. But with massive concretisation of roads and compounds, the city has become a gigantic cemented nuclear waste containment plant, where no water can escape into the ground. 

Now the maths. The city has far more people than what its land and infrastructure can support. The infrastructure is of the era of the British Raj, which is collapsing due to lack of maintenance and disrepair. Natural nullahs have become garbage pits, adding to the retention of the rain.

Along with the maths comes the lack of civic sense and the growth of garbage, particularly plasticware, over the last four decades. These block the stormwater drains.
All this cannot absolve authorities of blame. After 2005, a Doppler radar was imported. Why was it not used to predict the deluge this time? What is the use of declaring a holiday a day after a disaster?  The meteorology department predicts floods after the city has drowned. The government, police and municipal authorities have no clue. It would be better to hand the city over to the Army for a decade.

T R Ramaswami, Mumbai

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First Published: Wed, August 30 2017. 22:33 IST