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'Wither Mumbai? Wither India?' - Revisiting my Merinews article of Feb 2008
In the year of our Lord, 2017, Mumbai has sunk again and brought the city to its knees. People are stranded miles away from their homes. Cars are floating and water has entered the wards of KEM hospital.

Our young CM and the municipality claims that everything is under control. In their smugness, they have the cheek to say, 'That even America cannot control floods'! But what about their pre-monsoon claim about spending thousands of crores, for monsoon preparedness?

During the iconic rains of July 2005 when I was still an 'active' activist, I was trapped in my apartment for four days. Whole of Mumbai was deluged and over 1000 lives were lost. More killed than any terrorist attack! Unfazed, the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats claimed that it was an 'act of God'. The truth was that they and only they were responsible for this heinous crime.

Mumbai's dirty truth is that the common sense laws of town planning are either unknown to the powers that be, or they are wilfully ignored. Essentially, after Independence no thought has been given to the drainage network of the city. The city was largely dependent on the excellent drainage system the British left behind – when the city had large open spaces and not as congested as today. In my article in merinews.com, I had written:

'Till the 70s, Mumbai was a very liveable city for all sections of society. The planners did see the possible choking of the city with further developments. A committee including eminent planners like Charles Correa suggested the development of a twin city across the creek. Thus, in 1979, Maharashtra government sanctioned a plan for New Bombay. The specific purpose of investing thousands of crores of taxpayers' money was to 'decongest Bombay and act as a counter magnet'. The money was overspent but decongestion was not to be! The government offices did not move to the new city.

Thanks to the builder lobby, against all logic, sea was further reclaimed towards south Bombay, giving rise to new business districts of Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade. This further strained the narrow north-south corridor for commuters and all the attendant miseries of an overcrowded and polluted metro. The stated policy of housing of new businesses only in New Bombay was never implemented. To make matters worse, sea was further reclaimed to give rise to Bandra Kurla Complex, making the city even more vulnerable to flooding, while the newly named Navi Mumbai looked askance.

For the unfortunate spin off of such activities, citizens in general and the locals in particular have a lot to be unhappy about, thanks to the city having sold its soul to the whims of the builder.'

In 2014, when young Devendra Fadnavis took over as Chief Minister of Maharashtra, we had pinned high hopes for the future of the city. He was educated and had a clean image, which he has still retained. Sadly, it appears that no government can survive without appeasing builders and contractors. So, still keeping the clean image, just tweak the laws in favour of builders!

Infrastructure:

Mahim Creek was renamed as Mahim Bay: Simply by relabeling the coast, the whole area has now been opened to further construction. This will add to infrastructural woes of the coastal area, not the least of which is increasing its flooding potential, by blocking the flow of Mithi river. Who cares, as long as money keeps flowing into the party funds!

Similarly, by building the Rs 15,000 crore 29 km coastal road from Marine Drive to Kandivali, apart from environmental impact it will also create traffic woes for the commuters at both ends. The livelihood of the local Koli fisher folk is also threatened. But as long as mega projects keep rolling along, the builder/contractor lobby is kept happy, 'Sab kuch theek thak hai'!

Floor Space Index for buildings has been relaxed, thereby increasing population density of those localities. No comments on the attendant infrastructure like drainage, broader roads, parking etc!

Open spaces:

Mumbai's open spaces have been commandeered by the politician/builder nexus, thus flooding is its natural consequence. Open spaces act as catchment areas for the flood waters and that also helps increase the subsoil water table. Against the international norm of minimum 4.0 acres of open space per population of 1000, Mumbai had ten years ago, open space of less than 0.03 acres per thousand persons. A shame for any city and an open invitation to flooding! Over the years this dismal ratio has been further plundered.

As if the above has not been enough, Fadnavis government is going to build on the salt pans of Mumbai. This will be suicidal for the city. All commonsense and environmental impact studies dictate against this! Where will the flood waters, which were hitherto seeping into the salt pans, go?

Trees:

Aarey Milk colony is just about the only green lung of Mumbai suburbs. This virgin green open space has been a sore sight for the politicians and builders. They now seem to be determined to cut 3000 to 4000 trees, for reasons they cannot explain. In the name of an apparently harmless Metro siding, they are inching in. Trees give us a thousand blessings. In our heavily polluted city, they purify the air and provide us freshness! They collectively dampen the intensity of storms. And not the least, their roots absorb the flood waters, to an extent.

The litany of complaints is endless! Mumbai needs to vastly improve its drainage, and stop construction, invasion of open spaces and cutting of trees. China has built over 100 new cities to absorb the rise in population and disperse employment possibilities over elsewhere, too! What about India?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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