Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Tuesday has announced a high-level inquiry into the wall collapse tragedy at Malad’s Pimpripada, which has so far claimed 21 lives including seven children and injured another 75. The announcement came after allegations of irregularities in an ongoing slum redevelopment project were levelled.
With overnight rains paralysing normal life in Mumbai, Deputy Speaker Vijay Auti allowed the Opposition to move an adjournment motion over it. Nationalist Congress Party’s Chhagan Bhujbal, a former Deputy Chief Minister, had raised the allegation during the discussion while targeting the Shiv Sena-led Mumbai municipality and the government for the city’s flooding crisis.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has further forecast heavy to very heavy rainfall in the next 24 hours in parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada. Instructions have been issued to the local administration to be alert and exercise all necessary precautions.
Fadnavis, in his reply, said that he was deeply anguished by the loss of lives in the (Malad) tragedy. While announcing financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh to the families of those who had lost their lives, the CM informed that had directed the Mumbai municipality to extend additional assistance of another Rs 5 lakh from its corpus to the bereaved families. “The government will bear medical expenses of all those injured. The government and municipality will bear the responsibility of rehabilitation of those who lost their homes,” he said. Fadnavis also announced assistance to those who have lost lives in rain-related incidents in Kalyan and Pune.
Unprecedented rain event, says CM
Countering the Opposition’s charge that the downpour had exposed the lack of preparedness of civic agencies, the CM said, “The city saw an unprecedented rain event yesterday (Monday) night. Within four to five hours, parts of the city had received 375-400 mm of rain. When you look at the historical data, this is the second highest 24-hour rainfall (in the suburbs) in 40 years. The current carrying (holding) capacity of Mumbai’s stormwater drains is to handle about 150 mm water in 24 hours. But on days when it rains more than that, the system is burdened.” Fadnavis, who had visited the disaster management cell in the morning, claimed that the rainwater had receded faster than before in chronic waterlogging areas. “Whenever heavy rains are accompanied by high tide, water levels rise in some areas,” he said.
Delay in flood mitigation projects
Fadnavis admitted to the delays in implementation of the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage (BRIMSTOWAD) project, which was taken up after the 2005 deluge for enhancing the holding capacity of stormwater drains. A fact-finding committee formed after the deluge had recommended setting up of seven pumping stations to pump out excess rainwater. “Five among these are functional. They have led to some relief. But the setting up of the remaining two stations (Mahul and Mogra) have been delayed over land acquisition and environment permissions. We’ve recently invoked the Disaster Management Act to forcibly acquire lands (from the salt commissioner) for the two new stations. Work is expected to begin soon. Once they are commissioned, Mumbai will get major relief. Until then, we’ll need to take extra caution in vulnerable areas,” said Fadnavis.
Amid criticism from various quarters, Fadnavis rallied behind official agencies. The Mumbai Police monitored around 1600 SOS tweets and responded promptly to them. Similarly, the BMC disaster cell received 1000 calls, which were immediately attended to. The disaster response teams toiled through the night.