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Stop Blaming It On The Monsoon: Here’s Why Mumbai Drowns Every Year During Rains

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By Garima Kushwaha:

One of the picturesque and sumptuous gothic-style building opposite to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (a UNESCO World heritage site) is the building of Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Its unique architectural, cultural and historical value makes it a local landmark and contributes to the image and identity of the city. However, the eminence and efficacy of the country’s largest civic body housed in this building (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, BMC) is defeated when it fails to serve the city every monsoon.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Every monsoon, Mumbai, the financial city of India, effectively gets paralyzed due to heavy rains. The city experiences extreme water logging, flooding and power cuts at public places including roads, railways stations, subways and airports. Most educational institutes, courts and offices shut down, bringing the whole city to a standstill. This year Mumbai received the highest rains ever in June. This is the time of the year when the effect of BMC’s yearlong actions and efforts are reviewed.

BMC’s main effort towards resolving waterlogging and flooding problem in the city started after the incident of the heaviest rainfall of all time on 26th July 2005, when at least 1,058 people’s died in deluge, while 435 more lost their lives due to flood related diseases. Two years after that 2005 deluge, BMC formulated the Greater Mumbai disaster management action plan. However, all the projects in the plan progressed at snail’s pace over the last seven years, resulting in nothing but cost escalation of the project. A 2013 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General said that only 30 per cent of the work has been completed with cost escalations over Rs.2,708.89 cr.

BMC also initiated the Brihanmumbai Stormwater Drainage (BRIMSTOWAD) project, to upgrade the city’s 100-year-old drainage system and construct new pumping stations. This project was proposed and planned in 1985 but was not acted upon due to lack of funds till the 2005 flood, resulting in estimated cost to double from Rs. 600 cr to Rs. 1200 cr. This project is still running way behind schedule. Out of eight planned pumping stations, only four are ready after nine years of the BRIMSTOWAD project’s announcement. Two are still being constructed and the remaining two are still on paper. Meanwhile, delays in execution resulted an increase in the project cost to Rs.4,000cr from the initial Rs.1,200cr.

BMC, inspite of being the richest civic body in Asia with Rs 33,514 cr budget is accused of being unable to bring any relief to mumbaikars. “We have delayed this for years and it is criminal. There is no excuse for the delay. The BMC is one of the richest civic bodies and they cannot say lack of funding caused the delay,” Urban planning and design expert Ashok Datar told NDTV.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the new Rs.116cr Love Grove pumping station and Rs.112cr Cleveland Bunder pumping station in Worli, on June, 17th. These pumps were supposed to ease waterlogging in areas like Worli, Prabhadevi, Mahalaxmi, Dadar etc, but just two days later during heavy downpour, these pumps were found to be inadequate. Also, increasing the width of the drainage network, as per the plan, is still incomplete in most parts of Mumbai.

BMC also formed The Disaster Management Cell in 2005 to co-ordinate relief and rescue efforts, but the building for City Institute of Disaster Management (CIDM) awaited inauguration for years after its construction.

In 2015 BMC budget, BMC mostly presented the repeat of plans and promises that it could not implement in the previous year, for all major departments like roads and traffic, storm water drains, health, fire and education.

Regarding cleaning of drains or nullahs, although BMC claimed to have unclogged all the drains, all low-lying areas were flooded again this year. “There is a huge scam in the nullah cleaning work. Only the big nullahs appeared to be clean. Roadside drains and small nullahs were not cleaned at all. The BMC administration needs to clarify where the Rs150cr was spent,” said Devendra Amberkar, leader of the opposition in the BMC.

It is clear that the civic body made many promises about improving the city’s infrastructure after the 2005 deluge but nothing has yet materialized. And, now 10 years after the 2005 rains, the havoc by current rains in Mumbai clearly exposed the fiasco of BMC’s action plan.

What is most concerning is that all the BMC’s initiatives and efforts are counter-reactive measures, like upgradation of its disaster management cell, setting up a monsoon website to guide citizens about traffic and water logging situation, installing dewatering pumps at flood-prone spots etc., instead of preventive measures. These preventive measures often include forest and wetland restoration, which should be prioritized over the land grab that this city has become.

With patience running out in Mumbai’s population, it is high time for BMC to clean up its act and deliver on the promises that the people of Mumbai desperately deserve from their city.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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