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The Big Picture – Mumbai floods: The Urban Infrastructure Challenge

The Big Picture – Mumbai floods: The Urban Infrastructure Challenge

Flooding occurred in Mumbai on 29th August 2017 as the metro city recorded nearly 300mm of rainfall during that day. This event comparable to the 2005 floods (944mm rainfall on 26th July 2005) in Mumbai resulted in water-logging, halting of all three modes of transport, power-cuts and some casualties as well. Big cities like Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru also have slowed down during heavy rains.


  • Though flooding occurred because of heavy rains, but lessons had to be learnt from the earlier 2005 flooding and failures in Mumbai. The 2013 North India floods due to cloudburst in Uttarakhand, and 2015 South Indian floods resulting from NE monsoon that mainly hit Chennai had caused huge losses as well.
  • Such disasters of urban flooding are bound to come owing to the kind of haphazard development projects being carried out by builders in these cities. These are man-made disasters to some extent. These are recent Indian phenomenon, not heard in other countries of the world.
  • Further, drainages, both natural and man-made, get blocked due to fillings by mud, plastic, etc. To prevent havoc of flooding, these drainages should be cleaned in advance as a preventive action and awareness should be created among people as well. Issues like encroachments in river bed and dumping of garbage, and other pollutants in rivers and lakes also need to be solved.
  • Several decades old drainage system in India should be improved as they are unfit to meet the demands of the present population. Urban government should use technology like satellite imagery data through Bhuvan (a software application developed by ISRO) and National Urban Information System (NUIS) to map natural drains. Unauthorised construction activities in natural drainage areas should be checked. This will help the water to take its natural course.
  • Water should be taken as a factor while constructing and making architectures of buildings (water-centric approach).
  • Mumbai faces high tides which result in backflow of water. Improvements like construction of gates should be done to prevent this from causing losses to human lives.
  • Various agencies of governments should coordinate their works with municipality. Schemes like AMRUT (2015) and JNNURM (2005) aimed at improving infrastructure and ensure adequate robust sewage network for urban transformation.
  • The NDRF, under Ministry of Home Affairs formed under Disaster Management Act, 2005 has well trained, equipped and energetic personnel of CRPF, BSF, etc. It has given commendable performance during various disasters. The SDRF at state level, on the other hand, is only ‘filling the gap’ and needs to improve a lot. Also, communication and co-ordination of various government agencies and NGOs should be improved.
  • Technology for forecasting floods of urban cities needs to be made available like the one for river flooding present with Central Water Commission. A model needs to be developed by Indian Meteorological Department relating occurrence of flood in cities with rainfall to increase the lead time available for response.


Though climate change and other effects on environment may be the reason for these floods, they are also aggravated and occur frequently in big cities because of anthropogenic activities. There is a need to integrate all the development activities and urban governance. Various organizations and NGOs need to be better equipped and also coordinate with each other. Disaster management consists of various steps in which early preparedness must be focused upon to prevent such incidents in future.