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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Generating Disaster Awareness: ‘20 spots in city will be flooded this monsoon’

 With the promised flood modelling system still not in place four years after the 26/7 deluge, and the nullah-cleaning work far from completion, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has hit upon an ingenious solution to hide its shortcomings: it will issue an advisory asking all visitors to stay away from the city on or around July 24.
    As per the meteorological office five days are likely to be crucial this monsoon with very high tides, and if these are accompanied by heavy rainfall, the city can go under once again. July 24 in particular is expected to have tides as high as 5.05 meters (see box on page 4), the highest in a hundred years.
    With its drain rehauling project BRIMSTOWAD still two years away from completion, the BMC has deemed that the best way to deal with any impending crisis would be to keep people out of the equation. So while the traditional crisis management would be to
ensure that city remains on track and people keep going, BMC wants people to stop in their tracks and keep the city going.
    "It's a known fact that our system is not equipped to handle heavy rains and high tides together. We want the citizens to exercise cautions on these days so that there is no untoward incident," said Additional Municipal Commissioner Kishore Gajbhiye, who holds the charge for disaster management in city. To that end Gajbhiye wants the city to stay indoors— "do not take out your vehicles on the road," and for you to ask all your friends and relatives and acquaintances who may want to visit Mumbai during that period to "stay away." Schools and colleges have also been alerted to declare a holiday on days when the high tide is in excess of 4.5 metres and it is also raining. "We have told them not to wait for official orders and take decision on the basis of rainfall in their areas," said SS Shinde, Joint Municipal Commissioner (Disaster).
BMC has admitted that it is not equipped to handle more than 25 mm of rainfall per hour coupled with high tide of more than 4.5 metres.
    This year, there will be 22 such days during the monsoon, of which at least five such days when the high tide will be in excess of 4.5 meters.
    A high tide of 4.48 metres and a rainfall of 994 mm had wreaked havoc in the city on July 26, 2005, bringing the city to a complete standstill for three days.
    Damages to the properties in city were estimated at over Rs 1000 crore and over 800 people died following floods and diseases.
    However, it is ironic that the civic administration will be issuing a precautionary press note asking outsiders to stay away.
    Last year Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak had taken a strong objection to the US consulate advising its expatriates in city to take care during monsoon as manholes could be open during the monsoon. Phatak had then said that even they could issue similar warnings for the US cities.

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