Mumbai : Although Tuesday evening’s squall was no disaster, the way it paralysed the city was nothing short of a disaster. An hour-long spell of heavy rains and gusty winds can bring the city to a standstill. And this is what we call the ‘urbs prima in Indis’.
The number of tree falls is amazing. The fire brigade put the number at more than 1,000. Why is it that trees in urban areas fall like nine pins while those in semi-rural areas stand firm? And if urban trees are so delicate, what is being done about them?
The problem is that the BMC does not pay much attention to its gardens department. It is staffed by horticulturists and agriculture graduates who have no expertise on trees. Had it known that trees add a lot of foliage in the rains, become top-heavy, and are likely to topple in a squall, the gardens department would have trimmed the trees.
The railways have a team to spot trees near the tracks that are likely to fall in the rains but that team does not have a tree expert.
The BMC has also done little to prevent root damage while digging for utilities. In fact, rows of large trees wither away and die but the gardens department is not bothered.
The second notable point in Tuesday’s downpour was the flooding of roads and even flyovers. Why could the BMC not mobilise men to clear the plastic and leaves that clog drain-covers? The problem is that the civic body has become so corrupt and inefficient that it cannot be expected to react quickly in an emergency.
The third and most important point is the absence of any communication about the disruption. Offices could have been warned of the rail and road disruption and advised to hold back their employees for some more time. The lessons of 26/7 have been forgotten.
Neither the municipal commissioner nor the chief secretary, who head disaster management committees, appeared on TV to apprise citizens about the situation. As for the guardian minister, the less said the better.
Situations such the one on Tuesday evening make one wonder if there is anyone in charge of the city.