BMC’s SOP story: Downpour exposes lapses

In its 247-page glossy manual titled ‘Flood Preparedness Guidelines’,BMC has set for itself 45 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed before and during monsoon.

Written by Stuti Shukla | Published: June 17, 2013 1:07 am

In its 247-page glossy manual titled ‘Flood Preparedness Guidelines’,BMC has set for itself 45 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed before and during monsoon. However,the experience of Mumbaikars following Sunday’s downpour exposed the lapses in implementing many of these listed procedures.

While BMC claims that it has an up-to-date Disaster Management and Coordination unit at its disposal,a number of Dos and Don’ts are yet to be practiced at the local level. As per BMC’s 60 automated weather stations,Mumbai had received 15.3 per cent of its average annual rainfall by Sunday. However,the implementation of SOPs left much to be desired.

Opening manholes at the time of waterlogging and cordoning off with tripods is one SOP that is hardly practiced,said activist Nikhil Desai from King’s Circle. According to another SOP,ward officials need to be present in yellow uniforms at the waterlogging sites. “This week,there was major flooding in Gandhi market near Shanmukhananda hall in Matunga. It was only after the ward office was called repeatedly that they removed the lid of the manholes,” said Desai adding that in many areas the dewatering pumps were not functional. On the other hand,BMC claims to have over 180 dewatering pumps in full operation.

Another major lapse is the inadequate and shoddy desilting of nullahs. Former municipal commissioner D M Sukhtankar said that the level of corruption within the supervisory staff has increased manifold. “The level of supervision of contractors by BMC officials has deteriorated and they find it difficult to pull up lower level staff due to political pressure. It is a complete mess of a system with zero accountability,” said Sukhtankar.

Some of the SOPs that are not practiced are:

*Before monsoon,conduct recce of flooding spots with NDRF and Naval Staff

*Provide boats and manpower in low-lying areas during monsoons

*Stock sufficient quantity of emergency drugs,surgical equipment,potable water and food packets at ward level

*Issue early warning to ward officers if rainfall exceeds 10 mm in 15 mins. Rounds to be made by ward staff of flooding spots if rainfall is more than 10 mm in 15 mins.

*Evacuation from BMC dilapidated buildings before monsoon.

*Identify convenient parking lots and seek appropriate permission from land owners,identify sites for helicopter landing.

Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and chief disaster management officer Mahesh Narvekar could not be reached for comment.

AGNI activist James John said SOPs at the time of flooding include evacuating stranded people and transporting injured persons to hospital. “Are ward staff trained to handle injured persons or transport them to the hospital?” he asked. A critical SOP is to alert citizens through SMS,media,website in case of heavy to very heavy rainfall. While cautionary messages were sent out to citizens in bulk by the disaster management cell till 2011,the security clamp-down on bulk messages has resulted in no public address system apart from updates on http://www.mumbaimonsoon.com. The website does not give details about waterlogging,traffic snarls or closing down of roads,” said John.

According to a ward officer,typically SOPs also require the ward office to stock up medicines in case of any monsoon disasters. “We are yet to stock up on medicines . We have left that to hospitals,” said the officer.

Samajwadi Party corporator from Govandi Raees Shaikh said,“Every year it is a standard procedure to brief corporators about disaster preparedness. But no such training was conducted this year.”

stuti.shukla@expressindia.com

sharvari.patwa@expressindia.com

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