THE BRIHANMUMBAI Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Railway authorities are planning to conduct regular meetings to discuss long-standing issues. Senior civic officials said while the divisional railway managers will conduct a meeting with Additional Municipal Commissioner Vijay Singhal once every two weeks, a meeting with civic chief Ajoy Mehta will be held once every two months. Based on an analysis of the August 29 floods in the city, officials at the Storm Water Drains (SWD) Department had sent a list of 29 proposals to the Railways pertaining to culverts that needed to be either widened or cleaned.
Singhal said, “Issues pertaining to augmentation of culverts and tending to foot overbridges will be discussed during the meetings, which can significantly improve the coordination between the two agencies.” Another civic official pointed out that an analysis of waterlogged areas revealed that many culverts had not been de-silted and were too narrow for the water to pass.
“On S V Road, for instance, there are three culverts, which drain water from the area near the Jai Bharat Society in Bandra west into the Chamdavadi nullah. But, upon inserting a camera, we saw a lot of trash and silt, which had not been cleaned for at least three-four years. We also spotted that one of the three openings was narrower than the others, which could have caused the waterlogging,” said the official.
Another official added that the issue should have been resolved by the Railways at the time the de-silting was being done. “We will pay the Railways for the work but since the culverts were on Railway property, they will have to get the work done,” said the official. Barring the proposals sent by the SWD department, the roads department is in the process of preparing around 20 proposals on maintenance or widening of foot overbridges.
While Divisional Railway Manager of Central Railway, S K Jain, said a high-level delegation of the state government and the Railways will meet every month, a senior Western Railway official said, “Yes, we have decided to meet regularly and discuss issues that concern both the organisations. Improvement of the drainage system and issues related to floods will be discussed during the meetings. Our next meeting is planned in November first week.”
Barring “poor coordination”, BMC’s long-standing demand for an audit report of the funds that it had sent to the Railways to carry out de-silting and augmentation of the culverts had been a bone of contention between the two government agencies.
Singhal said, “We had a discussion with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal during his last visit and he has promised to share the audit records.” Civic officials have been claiming that the Railways have not provided an audit of the expenses for the past two decades.
As per the BMC’s records, since 2015, the SWD Department has paid nearly Rs 12 crore to the Central and Western Railways administration for de-silting work alone but are still waiting for an audit of the funds. Civic officials said the civic body paid the amount to the Railways for the annual cleaning of the nullahs, which are within Railway property, including 185 local flooding spots and 55 chronic flooding spots along with 117 culverts.