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Friday, January 28, 2022

Explained: How splitting, restructuring BMC wards could improve services

The Mumbai civic body has decided to bifurcate some of its larger administrative wards. Here's how this will pan out and help residents

Written by Laxman Singh , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
January 7, 2022 9:31:09 am
This 2019 photograph shows potholes on a road in Andheri East during the rains. The BMC wards look after repaid of roads, among various other tasks. (Express Photo: Amit Chakravarty, File)

With growing a population in suburbs and difficulty in managing civic services and planning for development works, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to bifurcate some of its larger administrative wards while restructuring the smaller ones. The Indian Express explains how bifurcation of the wards will pan out and help the 1.24 crore people who come under the purview of the BMC.

Why has the BMC has planned to bifurcate and restructure administrative wards?

To manage civic services more efficiently, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which runs the country’s financial capital Mumbai, has proposed to bifurcate and restructure existing administrative wards.

Currently, there are 24 administrative wards that look after basic civic amenities and services like waste management, water supply, nullah cleaning, maintenance of open spaces and repair of roads. Between, 2001 and 2011, Mumbai has seen substantial growth in population in western and eastern suburbs along with land developments projects. As per the census data, Mumbai’s population is 1.24 crore. The island city or old Mumbai (Colaba to Sion and Mahim) had recorded a drop in population while the western suburb (Bandra to Dahisar) and eastern suburb (Kurla to Mulund and Mankhurd) saw a rise of about 8 per cent.

Owing to the challenges in service delivery, the BMC has proposed to divide a few larger wards and merge a few smaller wards in the island city. On Tuesday, a proposal of bifurcation of K-east ward (Andheri east) and L ward (Kurla) each into two had come for approval before BMC’s group leaders meeting.

Before these two wards, the corporation had also proposed to divide P-north (Malad) ward into two. Similarly, in the island city, the merger of administrative ward B (Dongari), C ward (Bhuleshwar, Kalbadevi) into E ward (Byculla) and D ward (Malabar Hill) respectively is also on the cards.

There has been demand since a very long time for splitting bigger wards.

Just to give a sense of how big Mumbai has (in terms of population) grown, it is bigger than Sweden (1 crore) and Denmark (58.1 lakh). At least 10 Indian states including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh are smaller than the population under BMC.

When was the last bifurcation done?

The BMC, which was formed as a ‘town council’, had its first-ever meeting in September 1873. With a history of over 145 years, the BMC has grown administratively with the city’s expansion to the north.

According to the book, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and Ward Administration, written by retired Deputy Municipal Commissioner Dr David Anthony Pinto and Dr Marina Rita Pinto in 2008, after the corporation’s formation in 1950, suburbs from Bandra to Andheri and Sion to Ghatkopar, and in 1956 the remaining portion of Andheri to Dahisar and Ghatkopar to Mulund were merged in the municipal corporation.

Later, in order to provide better facilities to the growing population, six divisional wards were further divided into 21 administrative wards under the regional decentralisation process in 1964.

The last bifurcation of wards was done in early 2000, taking the total wards up to 24. Apart from an increase in administrative wards, the number of administrators have also increased gradually from one IAS officer to the five now handling the corporation.

Which are the biggest administrative wards?

The BMC’s 24 wards provide services to citizens living in 476.24 sq km area. According to the data from the BMC’s annual Environment Status Report (ESR), P-north (Malad) is among the biggest administrative wards in terms of population it manages. There are 9.74 lakh people living in P-north. Following this, 9.33 lakh in L ward (Kurla), 8.52 lakh in K-east (Andheri east), 7.74 lakh in K-west ward (Andheri west). Officials said that the population in these wards could be more as the current data is based on census 2011.

Similarly, B ward (Dongri) and C ward (Bhuleshwar) are among the smallest wards with 1.31 lakh and 1.71 lakh population respectively.

Some of the wards under the BMC are bigger than some municipal corporations in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) like Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (8.09 lakh), Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (5.06 lakh) and even with other cities like Chandigarh (9.67 lakh) and Bhubaneswar (8.43 lakh).

How will splitting and restructuring of wards help citizens?

Considering the vast geographical areas and population density, the BMC said the splitting of wards and restructuring will help in better planning and improvement in basic citizen facilities.

An administrative ward is crucial in preparing a development plan of the area under it. It also looks after civic facilities like citizen’s birth and death certificates, property tax payment, water and sewage issues, garbage collection, footpaths and road repairs, complaints against encroachment and illegal construction, maintaining open spaces, and providing health services. In larger wards, officials have often complained about over burden of work that affects quality of services.

The BMC administration in past had been very vocal on spitting as they have admitted that the service delivery and planning is facing challenges in the bigger wards as existing staff strength is insufficient.

The propsoed decentralisation will make the job easier and time consumed in resolving civic complaints is also expected to be reduced.

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