Maharashtra floods of 2005
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The 2005 Maharashtra floods refers to the flooding of many parts of the Indian state of Maharashtra including large areas of the metropolis Mumbai, a city located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, on the western coast of India, in which at least 5,000 people died. It occurred just one month after the June 2005 Gujarat floods. The term 26 July, now is, in context always used for the day when the city of Mumbai came to a standstill.
Large numbers of people were stranded on the road, lost their homes, and many walked for long distances back home from work that evening. The floods were caused by the eighth heaviest ever recorded 24-hour rainfall figure of 994 mm (39.1 inches) which lashed the metropolis on 26 July 2005, and intermittently continued for the next day. 644 mm (25.4 inches) was received within the 12-hour period between 8am and 8pm. Torrential rainfall continued for the next week. The highest 24-hour period in India was 1,168 mm (46.0 inches) in Aminidivi in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep on 6 May 2004 although some reports suggest that it was a new Indian record. The previous record high rainfall in a 24-hour period for Mumbai was 575 mm (22.6 inches) in 1974.
The rains slackened between the 28 July and 30 July but picked up in intensity on 31 July. The Maharashtra state government declared 27 July and 28 July as a state holiday for the affected regions. The government also ordered all schools in the affected areas to close on 1 August and 2 August. Mumbai Police commissioner Anami Narayan Roy requested all residents to stay indoors as far as possible on 31 July after heavy rains disrupted the city once again, grounding all flights for the day.
On 26 July 2005, around 2:00 p.m. the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was struck with a heavy storm. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) station in Santacruz had recorded a record 944 mm. of rain for the 24 hours ended at 08:30 a.m. on 27 July. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM] control room started receiving phone calls reporting the heavy rain and water logging in suburban areas.
Local train movement came to a halt by 2:30 p.m. due to the water logging on the tracks, due to which, vehicular traffic intensity on roads increased. Water logging and submergence of certain low lying pockets of the region such as Dharavi, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Chunabhatti, Chembur, Ghatkopar, Milan Subway and Sion either slowed down traffic, or in some areas, brought it to a grinding halt.
With sudden rush of vehicles after around 4 p.m., it took about 4 hours for a BEST bus to reach from Churchgate to Mahim. The situation worsened when the cellphone networks went down around 5 p.m. Land-lines of M.T.N.L. were also only partially functional. Adding to the chaos was the lack of public information. Radio stations and many television stations did not receive any weather warnings or alerts by the civic agencies. The Met department blamed it on the lack of sophisticated weather radars which would have given a 3 hour prior warning which came due to high tides.
The Powai Lake had started overflowing at 4 p.m. and discharged 5.95 million cubic meters of water into the Mithi River. The rainfall hydrographs of 26 & 27 July later revealed that two flood waves were generated in the streams and river basins of Mumbai, one between 2:30 & 20.30 p.m.- coinciding with the high tide period and another between 8 and 10 p.m. Normally, the second wave would have harmlessly drained because of the prevalent low-tide. But that did not happen because the accumulated water from the first flood wave had yet not flushed out effectively during the ebb period because of a choked drainage system. The result was that the flood situation kept on aggravating throughout the night. There was some relief in sight only when the second ebb period commenced at 6 p.m. on 28 July.
Due to submergence of the power stations and substations, Suburban power supply was suspended from the evening of 26 July and it was restored only after the flood waters receded.
Thousands of school children were stranded due to flooding and could not reach home for up to 24 hours. The following two days were declared as school and college holidays by the state government.
Rescue and Relief Measures
The entire Government machinery along with the local offices of the MCGM immediately got into action for the desired relief, rescue and thereafter in the mission for restoring the city to normally. The Municipal machinery tried to organize safe evacuation of people through boats and buses. The evacuated people were sheltered in public buildings including schools and transit shelters. Community kitchens were started and free food grains were provided by the Government of Maharashtra [GOM] and MCGM as well as voluntary NGOs and individuals.
The Traffic Police and Fire Brigade cleared 26,000 vehicles stranded by the roadside on the following day. Power and water supply were restored gradually. Train services returned to normalcy on 28 July. 24,000 animal carcasses were disposed and more than 2 lakhs tonnes of garbage was mopped up with the help of about 1,000 dumpers & J.C.Bs deployed from all over the State with the support of NGOs and the Transport Commissionerate. The B.E.S.T. plied extra buses to Mahim and Sion to facilitate movement of around 1.5 lakh stranded commuters at the C.S.T. & Churchgate Railway Stations. The Fire Brigade and the “Rescue Teams” of MCGM undertook 282 major and minor rescue operations of around 3,700 stranded people including rescuing school children as well as rescuing people from 140 marooned BEST buses. Rescue boats of the Navy were requisitioned and deployed in Kurla and Kalina.
Emergency relief arrangements were organized on a war footing. Food packets and drinking water was arranged for the stranded people with the help of NGOs and Social Organizations on the 27th July. Over 25,000 people were provided relief at 15 locations across the city including Air India Colony, Kranti Nagar (Jari Mari Road), Filter pada at Bhandup and Panchsheel Nagar. Affected people were shifted to nearby Municipal schools, local buildings and halls on the 27th of July. 8,750 and 3,250 food packets were distributed in City and Western suburbs.
Threat to public health
The rain water caused the sewage system to overflow and all water lines were contaminated. The Government ordered all housing societies to add chlorine to their water tanks while they decontaminate the water supply.
Thousands of animal carcasses floated in the flood waters, raising concerns about the possibility of disease.
Reports in the media warned of the threat of waterborne diseases, and hospitals and health centers geared up to distribute free medicines to check any outbreak.
India's western coast receives high rainfall due to the presence of the Western Ghats which lie at about 50 km (31 mi) from the coast. The hill range runs parallel to the Indian coast at an average altitude of 1,200 metres (3,900 ft). Rain bearing clouds generally deposit much of their moisture through orographic rainfall along India's western coast which lies on the windward side of the hills.
The financial cost of floods was unprecedented and these floods caused a stoppage of entire commercial, trading, and industrial activity for days. Preliminary indications indicate that the floods caused a direct loss of about Rs. 550 crores (€80 million or US$100 million). The financial impact of the floods were manifested in a variety of ways:
- The banking transactions across the counters were adversely affected and many branches and commercial establishments were unable to function from late evening of 26 July 2005. The state government declared 27 and 28 July as public holidays. ATM networks of several banks, which included the State Bank of India, the nation's largest national bank; ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and several foreign banks like Citibank and HSBC, stopped functioning from the afternoon of 26 July 2005 at all the centers of Mumbai. ATM transactions could not be carried out in several parts of India on 26 July or 27 July due to failure of the connectivity with their central systems located in Mumbai.
- The Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India, the premier stock exchanges of India could function only partially. As most of the trading are eTrading, trading terminals of the brokerage houses across the country remained largely inoperative. Ironically, in partial trading, the Sensex, India's most tracked equity index closed at an all-time high of 7605.03 on 27 July 2005. The Exchanges, however, remained closed for the following day.
- For the first time ever, Mumbai's domestic and international airports (including Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Sahar and Juhu aerodrome) were shut for more than 30 hours due to heavy flooding of the runways, submerged Instrument Landing System equipment and extremely poor visibility. Over 700 flights were cancelled or delayed. The airports reopened on the morning of 28 July 2005. Within 24 hours of the airports becoming operational, there were 185 departures and 184 arrivals, including international flights. Again from early morning of 31 July, with increase in water logging of the runways and different parts of Mumbai, most of the flights were indefinitely cancelled.
- Rail links were disrupted, and reports on late evening of 30 July indicated cancellation of several long distance trains till 6 August 2005.
- The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which witnessed a number of landslides, was closed the first time ever in its history, for 24 hours.
- According to the Hindustan Times, an unprecedented 5 million mobile and 2.3 million MTNL landline users were hit for over four hours.
- According to the .in registrar (personal communication), the .in DNS servers in Mumbai had to be reconfigured because the servers were not operational.
- Transport stats
- 52 local trains damaged
- 37,000 autorickshaws spoiled
- 4,000 taxis damaged
- 900 BEST buses damaged
- 10,000 trucks and tempos grounded
Factors aggravating the disaster in Mumbai
Antiquated drainage system
The present storm-water drainage system in Mumbai was put in place in the early 20th century and is capable of carrying only 25 millimetres of water per hour which was extremely inadequate on a day when 993 mm of rain fell in the city. The drainage system was also clogged at several places.
Only 3 'outfalls' (ways out to the sea) are equipped with floodgates whereas the remaining 102 open directly into the sea. As a result, there is no way to stop the seawater from rushing into the drainage system during high tide.
In 1990, an ambitious plan was drawn to overhaul the city's storm water drainage system which had never been reviewed in over 50 years. A project costing approximately 600 crore rupees was proposed by UK based consultants hired by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to study the matter. Implementation of the project would have ensured that rainwater did not flood the streets of Mumbai. The project was planned to have completed by 2002 and aimed to enhance the drainage system through larger diameter storm water drains and pipes, using pumps wherever necessary and removing encroachments. The project, if implemented would have doubled the storm water carrying capacity to 50 mm per hour.
The BMC committee had rejected the proposed project on the grounds that it was "too costly". These were few of the drawbacks due to which the city suffered so gravely.
Uncontrolled, unplanned development in Northern Suburbs
Unlike South Mumbai, development in northern suburbs of Mumbai is haphazard and buildings are constructed without proper planning. The drainage plans in northern suburbs is chalked out as and when required in a particular area and not from an overall point of view.
The Environment Ministry of the Government of India was informed in the early 1990s that sanctioning the Bandra-Kurla complex (a commercial complex in northern Mumbai) was leading to disaster. No environment clearance is mandatory for large urban construction projects in northern Mumbai. Officials in the environment ministry claimed that it was not practical to impose new guidelines with retrospective effect "as there are millions of buildings".
Destruction of mangrove ecosystems
Mangrove ecosystems which exist along the Mithi River and Mahim Creek are being destroyed and replaced with construction. Hundreds of acres of swamps in Mahim creek have been reclaimed and put to use for construction by builders. These ecosystems serve as a buffer between land and sea. It is estimated that Mumbai has lost about 40% of its mangroves between 1995 and 2005, some to builders and some to encroachment (slums). Sewage and garbage dumps have also destroyed mangroves. The Bandra-Kurla complex in particular was created by replacing such swamps. The most acclaimed Mindspace CBD (INORBIT MALL) in Goregaon & Malad has been built by destroying a large patch of mangroves in Maharashtra.
In popular culture
The disaster was featured in a National Geographic Documentary. Also there are two full length commercial Hindi feature films made and released on this unfortunate incident. The first movie was 26 July at Barista that released in 2008, while the other movie on the same subject was released in November 2009 with the title Tum Mile and did not do very well at the box-office.
In Academic Research
The floods have been the subject of research by scientists and social scientists attempting to understand the causes, impacts, and short/long term consequences. Scholars have studied the floods in Mumbai from the perspectives of climate change, disaster management / mitigation, urban health, vulnerability and adaptation, hydrology, environmental degradation and encroachment etc. Kapil Gupta (2007) assesses urban flood resilience, while Anjaria (2006) contrasts the "widespread acts of generosity and altruism" in Mumbai with the general social disorder that was seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Aromar Revi (2005) draws lessons from the floods for prioritizing multi-hazard risk mitigation. Parthasarathy (2009) links social and environmental insecurities to show that the most marginalized groups were also the most affected by the floods.
- "Final Report". Fact Finding Committee on Mumbai floods. March 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
- "Mumbai airport becomes operational after two days". Rediff.com. 28 July 2005. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- BBC News
- BBC Updates
- Mumbai Help A blog dedicated to disseminate information on emergency services, helplines, infolines, relief/rehab organizations and their activities etc.
- Cloudburst Mumbai A blog dedicated for news, links and personal stories related to this tragedy.
- Anjaria, Jonathan Shapiro “Urban Calamities: A View From Mumbai”, Space and Culture, Vol. 9, No. 1, 80-82, 2006
- Gupta, Kapil, “Urban flood resilience planning and management and lessons for the future: a case study of Mumbai, India”, Urban Water Journal, Volume 4, Issue 3, 2007
- Parthasarathy, D, “Social and environmental insecurities in Mumbai: towards a sociological perspective on vulnerability”, South African Review of Sociology, Volume 40, Issue 1, 2009
- Revi, Aromar, “Lessons from the Deluge: Priorities for Multi-Hazard Risk Mitigation”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 36 (Sep. 3-9, 2005), pp. 3911-3916