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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Court questions state's disaster preparedness




The Bombay high court on Thursday wondered if the state government has made any alternative arrangement to tackle natural disasters and questioned its preparedness while hearing a PIL on the destruction of wetlands and mangroves.

On March 10, the HC had ordered a total ban on reclamation and construction on wetlands in Maharashtra and for prompt action to be taken against violators on a PIL by NGO Vanashakti. The court's observations came after the report of the chief conservator of forests (mangroves) confirming that there is massive destruction of wetlands and mangroves in areas such as Dahisar, Vasai, Ghodbunder Road and Kalwa in Thane district and Uran in Raigad district.

Vanashakti's advocate Gayatri Singh told a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode that destruction continued and no action was being taken by the civic bodies. Maharashtra Pollution Control Board's advocate Sharmila Deshmukh said no authority was empo wered to take action against violators and even the Wetlands Authority, which has been set up recently, had no powers.

The judges also lamented the decline and destruction of greenery in areas such as Vasai and Ghodbunder Road. Justice Kanade said that on his way to the Maharashtra Judicial Academy at Uttan there was "massive destruction and construction of illegal bungalows". Justice Kode said Ghodbunder Road during his childhood "was considered to be better than Ratnagiri because of its greenery".

Referring to the landslide in Pune, the government's advocate G

W Mattos said it had happened due to deforestation. The judges also wondered what would happen to Mumbai if wetlands disappear. "Fortunately it is raining. The entire city of Mumbai will have to be evacuated if it does not rain for two years," said Justice Kanade.

The judges also questioning the government's preparedness to handle natural disasters. "What alternative arrangement the government has thought about?" asked Justice Kanade. Posting the hearing on August 7, 2014, the judges said "concrete solutions" will have to be found otherwise their orders "will remain merely on paper".



Day's rain gives city over a month's water supply




Santa Cruz, which recorded the lowest June rainfall in 63 years with a paltry 87.3mm, got 1468.7mm of rain in July the highest ever in the month since 1951. It surpassed even the 1,454.5mm recorded in July 2005, which included the downpour of 26/7. Moreover, rainfall received on July 30-31 in catchment areas has increased the city's water stock by 1.2 lakh million litres.

The low rainfall in June this year had become a matter of concern but it gathered pace in July. Rainfall in Santa Cruz since June 1 this year is 1,556mm, of which only 87.3mm was received in June.

V K Rajeev , director, Regional Meteorological Centre, Mumbai, said weather systems being different every year, rainfall could vary during the four monsoon months. "There are variations in systems and the distribution of rainfall varies every year. Currently , there is a low pressure trough, which is moving inwards and we have issued a forecast of heavy rainfall over the next 48 hours. This year the maximum quantum of rainfall so far was received in July," he said, denying rumors of a `cloudburst' which were doing the rounds on social media.

In the past decade, rainfall higher than 1,400mm was received only in 2005, which was the year of the deluge that sank several parts of the city. The excess rainfall so far in case of Colaba and Santa Cruz is 120.3mm and 197mm respectively . While Colaba has already received 68.7% of the season's required average so far, Santa Cruz received 69.7%.

The good news also continued in catchment areas and there was a 100% rise in water stocks in a week. While on July 25 water stock in catchment areas was 3.3 lakh million litres, on July 31, it rose to 8 lakh million litres. Vihar and Tansa, which supply a combined 11% of water to the city , are just two metres below the overflow level whereas Upper Vaitarna is 3.5 metres off. BMC on Thursday halved water cuts to 10% and may lift it completely if good rain persists.

2 drowning deaths in city

Two separate cases of drowning were reported in the city on Thursday. A teenager, Rafiq Shah (17), drowned in the sea at Versova behind Sagar Kutir building, Yari Road, around 2.30pm. He had gone for a swim with his friends.
In the other case, Khalid Ansari (30) of Bhiwandi drowned in Nadi Naka river. He had gone for a swim after seeing the river overflow. Fire brigade officials could not trace either Shah or Ansari's bodies till late in the night.

Downpour hits highways

Heavy rain on Thursday afternoon caused a major crack on the Mumbai-Nashik highway at the new Kasara Ghat. One side of the highway, towards Mumbai, was blocked. The crack was a foot wide and three feet deep and just next to a 150-metre-deep valley. Later, National Highway 222 was cut off between Kalyan and Titwala after Rayta bridge connecting both submerged.
Waldhuni river in Kalyan and Nadi Naka river in Bhiwandi, too, overflowed. A total of 200 families living close to Waldhuni river were shifted. In Bhiwandi, in the absence of civic facilities, around 2,000 people are forced to live in 3-foot water.










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