The heaviest rainfall in a decade has killed at least 27 people and caused major disruption in Mumbai and the surrounding areas. Monsoon rains, which usually run from June to September, have weakened structural foundations, with one wall collapsing and killing 18 people; flooded roads and transport systems; and disrupted daily business. The unpredictable nature of monsoon rains, most likely exacerbated by climate change, means that both drought and flooding are a continual problem across the Indian subcontinent. The BBC reports that Mumbai was brought to a halt by heavy rainfall in 2017; however, recent floods have triggered fears of a repeat of the 2005 floods which killed over 900 people. Mumbai has been looking to turn itself into a global financial hub for many years now, but a lack of reliable and quality assured infrastructure has meant monsoon rains have prevented Mumbai from achieving its vision. As the situation is predicted to get worse, with above-average rainfall predicted in the next few days, many are beginning to criticize the response and preparedness of authorities and the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation).
Mumbai officials on twitter said, “550 mm average for the entire month of June has been exceeded in the last 48 hrs.” The private weather agency Skymet said, there is a serious risk of flooding from further rainfall “which could hamper normal life.” Leaders of the political party Shiv Sena, whose headquarters are in Mumbai, have been quick to blame the rain for the extent of the destruction, not inadequate infrastructure. Leader Aditya Thackeray, speaking to India Today, admits “No civic body in the world could deal with such a situation when you get so much rainfall in one night.”
Thackeray’s statement is not wrong by any means, it is extremely difficult to guarantee a successful response in such severe conditions. However, locals and opposition in the Congress have accused the government of being “incompetent” for a repeated lack of preventative measures year after year. Although authorities have saved the lives of many, greater monsoon measures and clearer communication between authorities and locals could address immediate issues. But to solve the issue in the long term, an investment must be guaranteed into infrastructures that can withstand monsoon rains or at least greatly reduce the risk.
With Mumbai’s population exceeding 20 million and growing rapidly, the city is struggling to match the needs of its people. Many have noted that the construction boom, which has followed this population growth, is partly responsible for the chaos brought by monsoon rains. Bad urban planning and uncontrolled construction, both legally and illegally, is what makes this an annual issue for the people of Mumbai. Overall, a failure to uphold promises and an inability to match increased demand has meant locals are beginning to become disillusioned with the municipal authorities and the Shiv Sena-BJP government, reports the Telegraph and AFP.
Mayuresh Ganapatye at India Today reported at the beginning of June that the BMC was confident with their pre-monsoon management despite reservations from locals. Clearly, this confidence was short-lived. Unfortunately, it is often the poorer residents of Mumbai that suffer the most, with “40 to 50 percent of the city’s population” living in slums, reports the Telegraph. Therefore, it is a matter of representation, people that are disconnected from this dream of a global financial hub see their livelihoods repeatedly destroyed by inadequate investment in preventative monsoon measures. Greater solidarity among the people of Mumbai is an assured way to increase the effectiveness of developments and reduce the inequality that is laid bar by monsoons in Mumbai.
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