The unprecedented waterflooding, landslides, tree falls in south Mumbai on Wednesday has revived the opposition to the government’s much-touted Coastal Road project. Several residents and environmental activists have raised concerns over the impact the project might have on water-logging in the island city in the future.
Uma Ranganathan a south Mumbai resident said, "We never saw such flooding before. The Coastal Road is a cause of concern when it comes to flooding, as it involves reclamation. Besides, it will create a bottleneck on existing roads at Kemps Corner, because roads cannot be widened there. Mumbai is defined by its coastline. The Coastal Road will take away everything while catering only to motorists."
When contacted on the concerns raised by south Mumbai residents, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said, "BMC will examine these issues."
Rahul Kadri, another resident and urban planner said augmenting the capacity of storm water drains should be the focus. "The project cannot be made with the capacity of existing storm water drains, which are a century old. Today, blaming the coastal road for the water logging problem would be wrong, but it might be different in the future.”
“BMC should first construct higher capacity storm water drains. Building the coastal road means the existing storm water drain outlets meeting the sea will be shifted on average by 200 metres. BMC should think on redesigning the storm water drains,” Kadri added.
Activist Zoru Bathena said, "Reclamation can never solve the problem; it will create more problems. During the 2005 deluge, Mithi River overflowed and several committee reports said reclamation was the problem. In the 1980's, reclamation was stopped because it was felt problems would arise. The city is already saturated and further reclamation will cause huge damage."
"If one has to build a road, it can be built on stilts. Why does the BMC want to reclaim land and obstruct sea water, while saying they want to build a park or garden? It has been unable to protect existing parks,” Bathena said.
A resident who has lived in Breach Candy for 60 years said, "The flooding spots were mainly the reclaimed areas like Breach Candy in front of Tata Gardens. Parked cars were found submerged here. Similarly, there was flooding at Nepean Sea Road opposite Priyadarshini Park and Babulnath because the Chotti Chowpatty is a reclaimed part.”
A former BMC official said that rainfall studies considered are of those years when the city usually used to witness only 50 mm rainfall per hour. However, on August 5, in just four hours, the city witnessed rainfall of 300 mm (72mm /hr). Considering the change, the proposed height of the coastal Road should be increased, the official suggested.