Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Bracing for the downpour

Slow pace of pre-monsoon desilting work on storm water drains is a major concern. Slow pace of pre-monsoon desilting work on storm water drains is a major concern.
Written by Alison Saldanha , Anjali Lukose , Tanushree Venkatraman | Mumbai | Posted: May 14, 2014 12:50 am | Updated: May 16, 2014 7:39 pm

By: ALISON SALDANHA & ANJALI LUKOSE

Every year, the cash-rich BMC is usually in a tearing hurry to meet its deadline of May 31 to finish all monsoon related works. And each year, without fail, the civic body promises to do a better job in the forthcoming year by starting ahead of time in January, instead of March.

While disaster management experts have largely commended the civic body for its state-of-the-art disaster response system, Mumbai still falls short, mainly due to its incomplete and ineffective pre-monsoon preparation.

“Our response time for rescue operations in a disaster during the monsoons is severely delayed due to traffic problems. Waterlogging in different parts of the city sets us back significantly if there is any emergency during peak-hour traffic,” said deputy chief fire officer P S Rahangdale.

But in a promising trend this year, BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte has been conducting monsoon preparedness meetings since March itself (instead of April-end), to ensure that gaps in BMC’s disaster management, identified during the previous monsoon, are plugged before the onset of rains this year. There are, however, several areas for improvement, say experts.

POOR COORDINATION
One of the main but lesser-known reasons for BMC’s failure in managing previous monsoons has been poor coordination between various government agencies, NGOs, private bodies and the corporation itself. During monsoons, BMC coordinates with roughly 20 government agencies to mitigate flooding, waterlogging, and other rain-related problems.

Last year, mis-communication between the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and BMC has been largely blamed for the city’s ill-preparedness, as many parts were inundated for days when the rains arrived on June 9. While the civic chief criticised IMD for failing to issue a proper weather forecast warning in advance, IMD maintained it had issued a heavy rainfall warning to BMC’s disaster control room by fax and SMS.

“The BMC should station at least one assistant engineer and medical officer at the control room 24×7. This will help when there are various kinds of emergencies as engineers and medical officers are equipped with the necessary know-how to manage the situation,” said I C Sisodiya, former chief vigilance officer and disaster management expert at BMC, who was also part of the N V Merani committee, which was formed after the 26/11 terror attack, to look at disaster management.

The two agencies now claim to have cleared this problem with a proper warning system in place. “We have decided to make additional efforts to ensure warnings reach the civic body on time. We will not only message but also call senior administrative officials of the level of the municipal commissioner or additional municipal commissioner, to warn in case of onset of rainfall, forecasts of ‘heavy to very heavy rainfall’, besides other regular warnings,” said K S Hosalikar, deputy director-general of meteorology, IMD Mumbai.

Following disaster preparedness meetings continued…

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