Mumbai rains
Falling under the "exceptionally heavy category", the rainfall between Monday to Tuesday led to the city coming to a standstill.Twitter

It's no secret that Mumbai faces some of India's worst monsoons every year. How citizens pull through the tough seasons has been a great show of courage so far. South Mumbai on Wednesday, received more rainfall than it did during the 2005 Mumbai floods. Still, they feel it's time for some kind of change. Research papers in the past have been commenting on Mumbai's archaic drainage system and planning as needing an upgrade.

Interestingly, there was a plan for an upgrade, this was the BRIMSTOWAD or the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal System proposed and launched in 2005 following the nightmare deluge that the city faced. The project which cost the government Rs 1,200 crore still remains unused and unfinished. 

Mumbai faces monsoon woes in 2020

Mumbai has been on high alert for floods this year, the IMD has issued an alert on Thursday and authorities asked citizens to stay indoors in anticipation of disaster. South Mumbai on Wednesday received maximum rainfall and reported a 'hurricane-like' situation the BMC reported. 

Mumbai rain
A man pushes his scooter as another rides his motorcycle through a waterlogged street during heavy rains in MumbaiReuters

On Wednesday, the NDRF had to use boats to rescues stranded local train passengers at the Masjid Bunder railway station.  Colaba recorded the highest rainfall it has received in the last 46 years in 24 hours. JJ hospital was inundated and the Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Cricket Stadium reported damage due to wind and rain.

The BMC had told media that the drainage system of Mumbai can withstand average and above-average rainfall but will not be able to manage in extreme situations like that the city experienced on Wednesday.

Mumbai's potential for a better drainage system

Even as authorities are exploring options for digging a holding pond or tunnel underground to help the flow of floodwater, a gaping question arises. Mumbai is currently employing a British-designed drainage system which is over 140 years old. Since then Mumbai has grown and climate change has occurred. 

Research has shown since 2011 that a new drainage system in Mumbai might help it manage its floods and monsoon better. Every monsoon since 2005, Mumbaikers have been asking what happened to the promising BRIMSTOWAD system. The Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal System was announced in August 2005. The plan came up following the disastrous events on July 26th 2005 in the city.

This large-scale drainage project which was supposed to cost the government approximately Rs 1,200 crores was supposed to be completed in 58 phases, of which only 28 are finished according to a 2019 report. 15 years later since it began, the project is still unfinished. The system was meant to increase the carrying capacity of stormwater drains, which can currently only hold 25 mm of rain per hour during low tide. With the BRIMSTOWAD the capacity would be 50 mm/hour which would be double of the previous capacity.

On Thursday former chief minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, "Every time when such incidents occur in Mumbai,@mybmc claims that they have prepared list of such vulnerable spots but nobody knows what action is taken on that. Projects like pumping station, Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal System (Brimstowad) is also pending since years. "

Harnidh Kaur a writer, who had worked with the system in 2015 also shared her opinion on Twitter with a post from 2015:

Harnidh Kaur post on BRIMSTOWAD

She commented on Mumbai's situation as well, "It's a fact that Mumbai's drainage is archaic and under equipped. It's ALSO a fact that flooding wouldn't be so bad if there was annual desludging (which is expensive, and hence stuck). The BMC is the richest municipality in the country and this should be very much doable." 

Perhaps, Mumbai will rethink its approach to the devastating monsoons it faces.