Mumbai floods every year during monsoon, but this year has been different

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By Tanvi Deshpande

This rainy season, areas that were not known to flood also got inundated. Activists and experts blame infrastructure projects.


South Mumbai was lashed with its second-highest 24-hour rainfall since 1974 on August 5 and the city witnessed wind speed higher than what was recorded during Cyclone Nisarga, a tropical storm that hit the state in June.


The South Mumbai area has seen work on two important infrastructure projects commence in recent years including the coastal road project and Metro phase-III. Both the projects, together worth billions of rupees, have been staunchly opposed by environmentalists for their ill-impact on local ecology.


“With many of the city’s open spaces – playgrounds, intertidal regions – paved over, there is nowhere, but the city’s stormwater drains and rivers, for this water to go. The rivers have also been narrowed and channelised. After the 2005 floods, the stormwater drain capacity was upgraded in parts of the city under Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal System, a project to overhaul Mumbai’s water drainage system, from handling a maximum of 25 mm of rain to 50 mm of rain per hour. But this is their maximum capacity at low tide. The city needs to find other ways to accommodate rainwater when it falls. Unfortunately, the municipal corporation is doing the opposite by sanctioning real estate firms to pave over open space, or moving stormwater drains when they are on private land,” Anand told Mongabay-India.


P Velrasu, who is the additional municipal commissioner and in-charge of the stormwater drain department, disagrees with activists.

“We don’t see any correlation between the two projects and flooding. The issue happened due to heavy rainfall and high-speed winds in the island city- the system cannot deal with that sort of downpour. Drainage systems can handle only 60-70 mm downpour. Concretisation happens in any developing city internationally. At other places, they have water holding ponds in their urban design. We also want to develop the same. What has been done in Japan is very expensive, instead, we can develop holding ponds under the city’s open spaces,” he said.

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