Saturday, December 9, 2023

Of Mumbai Floods

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By Anang Pal Malik

Netherlands has only 50% of its land that is higher than 1 m from the sea. 26% of its area and 21% of its population are below sea level. Still it doesn’t get flooded. Its life doesn’t get paralysed for days, three four times every year. In fact, it is one of the richest countries in the world, is second largest exporter of food after the USA, and has more FDI into it than whole of the African continent put together.

Contrast that with Mumbai. India’s financial and entertainment capital. Home to the headquarters of the most of Indian Corporations and MNCs. Still, it becomes one big pond for a couple of days during heavy rains coinciding with high tide during the monsoon, with both road and train traffic coming to a standstill.

What is the difference between Netherlands and Mumbai?

Well, Netherlands is the first Capitalist country of the world. It pioneered the concept of free market, modern banking, debts and credits, and rule of law that recognised the sanctity of contracts. In short, the whole system which was called Capitalism and denounced for being so by Marx, is the creation of Netherlands.

It doesn’t worship environment, it tames it. It creates artificial hills on which it builds it cities and villages, and then joins them with dykes that form its canals also. It reclaims land from the sea, instead of having some foolish Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules which prohibit construction of structures close to sea. In fact, 17% of its area has been reclaimed from sea. It has 3000 km of primary sea dykes, and 10000 km of secondary dykes.

In contrast, we are worshiping socialism for last 67 years. In Mumbai, most of the old structures are either locked in rent control laws, or are under Heritage Committees thumbs. The low lying areas beyond these structures have been taken by hutments, which happened because housing regulations made construction of houses nearly impossible, and socialism made sure that large swathes of India are always at starvation level, forcing people to migrate to cities, and these people are then forced to live in slums and are taken by socialists under their wings. The socialists who force their distress migration into cities then thus become their best benefactors.

Therefore in Mumbai:

1. Low lying areas, and even nallas, etc., are taken by slums, which leave no temporary storage of rain water before it drains into sea.

2. Old construction can not be torn down because of rent control laws and Heritage tags, and therefore houses do not have rainwater harvesting arrangements which could have stored the rain water instead of releasing it into drains immediately.

3. Old houses can not be rebuilt at higher plinth levels for above reasons.

4. Socialism makes sure that no investment is made into city drainage, and instead tax money is blown on freebies for vote banks. This though mitigates short term needs, but creates huge long term poverty.

5. No drainage system can drain rainwater if rain intensity exceeds that for which the drainage system was designed. This also gets compounded in case of Mumbai if it is a high tide day, as sea becomes a barrier to drainage, instead of facilitating it.

6. As the city has grown, taking low lying open areas which earlier worked as natural temporary storage till high tide receded, no matching drainage and pumping infrastructure has been created.

Mumbai doesn’t have to suffer the ignominy of turning into a dirty pond in every spell of heavy rain, causing huge disruption of life and huge economic losses. Solutions are very simple.

1. CRZ rules must all be scrapped. Dykes on all three sides of Mumbai should be constructed, reclaiming land from the sea. This reclaimed land will pay for all the dykes and pumping infrastructure.

2. Rent control laws must be scrapped. Old buildings should be torn down over the time, and replaced with modern high rises with high plinth levels.

3. Land titles to slum land should be given to slumdwellers, and they should be asked to raise plinth levels of their homes.

4. All roads should be gradually raised above the highest flood marks.

5. All Railway lines should be gradually raised above the highest flood marks.

Netherlands suffered heavy floods in 1953, which killed about 1800. Instead of chest beating in TV studios, it drew up 30 year plans and has strengthened the dykes to withstand 10000 year return period floods instead of 4000 years earlier. In fact unlike us, instead of planning to commit economic suicide in the worship of fraud called Global Warming/Climate change, it has already drawn plans and started work to face it. Anticipating a sea level rise of 1.2 m, it is already raising dykes by that height.

India is a country which now has development plans controlled by NGO bosses. They can block any intervention planned against natural disasters, because they want to preserve our environment in some pristine state. They are also the first to rush to TV studios to denounce government for not doing anything to prevent flooding, and at the same time work to put laws and rules in place to make sure that nothing can be done to prevent flooding.

I remember an interview, a full page interview in one of the leading dailies of Mumbai, of a famous NGO boss of Mumbai, in which he claimed that Bandra Worli sea link affected the flow in Mithi river, which caused the flooding of Bandra in 2005. A man who can claim that Bandra Worli sea link can affect flow in Mithi river should be divested of all his educational certificates and should be asked to start afresh his education from standard I. because Bandra Worli sea link is about 1 km away into the sea from where Mithi river meets the sea. Flow in Mithi river can never know its presence what to say of getting affected by it. But such illiterates control the development narrative of Mumbai. They are feted, and are fattening themselves by keeping Mumbai at a standstill, which leads to disastrous flooding in every monsoon.

IIT Mumbai should be asked to draw a comprehensive plan, not subject to any existing laws like CRZ, etc., to make Mumbai completely flood free in, say, twenty years. And all NGOs should be disbanded. The plan should be financed by selling the reclaimed land, and by diverting freebie money back to development, for which it is collected.

The works to make Mumbai flood free would themselves create so much quality employment for the slumdwellers that slums themselves would disappear by the time the works are completed.

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