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Mumbai’s Civic Chief Blames City-Wide Flood on Climate Change

As the city goes down under 550mm of rainfall in two days, the local municipality has a new excuse for its classic lack of preparedness.

by Shamani Joshi
02 July 2019, 8:24am

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After the state of Maharashtra faced an extended summer of drought-like conditions and a delayed onset of the monsoon, the slowest in 45 years, the skies came showering down on Mumbai. Over 550mm of rainfall poured over the city over the last two days, the highest it has received in a decade. And shit’s going down.

In a scene that haunts the citizens of Mumbai every year, the streets are now completely waterlogged, train stations are flooded with water instead of people, drains are choked up and flights have either been diverted or delayed. At least 23 people were killed over the last two days in rain-related incidents, prompting the government to declare a holiday today as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, citizens can’t stop blaming the city’s municipality department, which is meant to be ensuring properly planned infrastructure to deal with the monsoon given that it happens every year, with a history of the city being subjected to floods fairly quickly. However, in a familiar game of passing the buck, according to Mumbai municipal chief Praveen Pardeshi, it is not bad infrastructural planning, but climate change that is responsible for bringing the city to a standstill.

"There is one thing — climate change is happening. We never have rainfall in two days equal to a month's lot, which means more intense rainfall, this is a geographic phenomenon," Pardeshi told PTI. The senior IAS officer also claims the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been pumping out more rainwater than other city in the world.

While the city consists of a complex network of drainage systems, most of them are equipped to only handle 25mm of rain per hour on average. The BMC chief is also blaming development and construction in the area, along with saying that the drain system falls short during a high tide.

However, Mumbai lies on a kind of flood fault line, and everyone knows the city is pretty susceptible to waterlogging, most notably going under back in 2009, when over 900mm of rainfall happened within 24 hours. Even so, people in power keep cutting trees, digging up roads and denying climate change in the name of development. Mithi river, the city’s vital storm water drain, continues to be clogged with plastic and garbage, and though volunteers have started cleaning efforts here, it might take five more years to get there. There may be a questionable State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) in place, but given that only 0.6 per cent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto spoke about addressing climate change, it doesn’t seem like the government is too concerned about the end of the world, except for when it suits them. And even though climate change is a pretty big deal and definitely has a hand in the destructive monsoon consuming the city, the fact that officials are now suddenly citing it as the cause of their woes feels more like an obvious excuse for their lack of preparedness. Let that sink in.

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