Essay On 26-July-Flood In Mumbai In Marathi Goat

Monday, August 29, 2005

Official Death Toll

posted by Patrix at 8:10 AM32 comments

The Maharashtra government has come up with final flood toll figures:
"Maharashtra government on Monday submitted to the Bombay high court a list of 1,493 people who died in the recent deluge in various parts of the state and due to various flood-related diseases.

The state government informed that a total of 1058 people died in deluge while 435 more lost their lives due to flood related diseases. Some 141 others were missing in the deluge. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has already filed an affidavit stating that 546 people died in the city, including 75 killed in landslide and 179 drowned in floods."

I find that figure extremely low considering the various real-life stories I have heard about the floods. Why does the government almost always give a lower estimate when clearly everyone knows that the numbers are way higher?

Toxic carcasses

posted by amit varma at 12:40 AM9 comments

Sucheta Dalal writes in the Indian Express about the aftermath of the cloudburst in Mumbai:
Contrary to popular perception, the spread of disease through mosquitoes and rats is unlikely to end very quickly. In fact, increased toxicity during the hotter months of September and October could lead to a second round of epidemic. The urgent need to clear dead animals after July 26, forced the municipal corporation to hastily bury or chuck carcasses in dumping grounds or open spaces.

Sources connected with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) say over 2,000 buffalo carcasses and a massive 12,000 dog and goat carcasses were dumped at the Vasai and Deonar dumping grounds. In some cases, there has been an effort to bury them, but not at Vasai.

The Indian Express has in its possession photographs taken just a week ago, which show that carcasses thrown in the Vasai dumping ground are generating dangerous toxic waste and such high stench, that it is unsafe to visit the ground without protection. Today, Mumbai has two options: to deal with frequent epidemics carried from these toxic graveyards or to treat them and contain the danger.
Obviously, only the second is a viable option. And Dalal writes that the municipality is not competent enough in that regard.
Can we leave it to the municipal authorities to work at preventing epidemics? Even if these authorities have the will to do so, do they have the resources and the flexibility to consider new and innovative ways of disease prevention?

Dr Uday Bhawalkar and Dr H.S. Shankar of IIT Mumbai have designed a breakthrough solution that is being actively supported by The Indian Express. Their work has led to two doctorates and a US patent (check

Dr Bhawalkar, who heads the Bhawalkar Ecological Research Institute (BERI), has developed the Vermi+Biosanitizer, which acts as a catalyst for treatment of garbage and sewage, preventing the spread of disease through nitrat management.


Although The Indian Express is keen to take this effort forward, a larger programme would require corporate support and initiative. The alternative is to wait for municipal and government authorities to plod through the paperwork required to experiment with breakthrough technology and hope that it leads to an official clearance for the use of such remedies for the greater common good.


Dealing with the situation does not require a huge financial outlay. Dr Bhawalkar estimates that treating all the worst-affected parts of Mumbai with the Biosanitizer concentrate will require an outlay of under Rs 25 lakh.
Surely that's not too much?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

In Europe now?

posted by Patrix at 5:39 PM2 comments

Heavy rains lashed central and southern Europe earlier last week. MSNBC has a slideshow of the devastation caused and you could easily mistake some pictures to be from Mumbai. Don't believe me? Take a look at pictures #4 and #8.

That's right, blame it on the bags

posted by amit varma at 9:41 AM4 comments

So has the Maharashtra government figured out the many complex causes behind how ill-prepared Mumbai was for the July 26 Cloudburst? Yes. It's the bags that did 'em. Mid Day quotes Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister, as saying:
Mumbai alone suffered losses of around Rs 4,000 crore, including damage to property, in the recent floods due to choking of drains because of plastic bags, which also had its effect on public health.
The Maharashtra government has decided to ban plastic bags, which I have no complaints with. But I worry that the authorities will carry out a few such minor measures, and will absolve themselves of all other responsibility -- until the next disaster.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Rotting Garbage

posted by Patrix at 12:57 PM4 comments

More news from Panvel. Panvel also suffered greatly from the cloudburst that hit Mumbai. But the problem now is manifold. Some parts of the town experienced almost 12-15 feet of gushing water. Primarily a retail and business town for the nearby villages, the water laid waste to stored grain and bundles of cloth in shops that were mostly located on the ground level. Following the floods, the shopkeepers simply dumped their rotting wares on the streets, causing the entire area to stink. The local MP and MLA, both building contractors however have employed their personal resources like bulldozers and 'JCBs' to remove the garbage but the quantity of the rotting mess is overwhelming. It almost looks set for an epidemic.

I would like to know how Mumbai and other parts of the state dealing with their garbage problems following the floods.

Tell us your cloudburst stories

posted by zigzackly at 9:49 AM3 comments

[Originally published 12:04 a.m., August 10th, 2005. Moved up to the top today]

For the project I mentioned in this post, we're also looking for first-person accounts of the events of 26th July and the days after that.

Where were you? At home, marooned in office, stranded somewhere between? How did you cope? What did you see? Did anything particularly nice happen to you? Or anything really nasty? Do you have pictures?

If you've blogged it, send me the permalink. If you have an online album, send me the URL. Or email me. Accounts in languages other than English are welcome.

Mail me, Peter Griffin, at zigzackly AT gmail DOT com, and put the words [ThinkBombay] in the subject line (with the square brackets), to get past the spam filters.

Important: In your mail, I will need you to give me permission to:
1. Publish your story or pictures, in print and online, with NO payment to you. (None of the people involved in the project are making any money from it. Most of us are donating at least our time, if not more.)
2. Edit your contribution if I feel it is necessary.
You will not be giving the me or the project exclusive rights to your writing or photography. You will continue to own the rights to your intellectual property.

Update: The project is now moving faster, and further then we imagined it could. We need those stories now! Please mail me, and do also please pass this around to your friends, and link to it.

Thanks muchly.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The road to apathy

posted by amit varma at 11:09 AM4 comments

Society proceeds like the ocean. After a disaster, it resumes its wonted level and rhythms; its devouring interests efface all traces of damage.
-- Honoré de Balzac.

So shall Mumbai leave the cloudburst behind in such a way, and be apathetic again?

Goonj Volunteers Needed

posted by uma at 8:49 AM1 comments

Jessie from Goonj Mumbai tells me that they are looking for volunteers to help with the sorting of clothes, tomorrow (Saturday, 13 August) and on Monday (15 August). More details here. Please call Jasmine at 9324222219 or mail her at

The collection address is:
RBI Society
A4 Akshay Bldg
(in the lane opp Food Inn)
Andheri West

Thursday, August 11, 2005

She loves me, she loves me not

posted by amit varma at 10:04 PM2 comments

Epidemic, yes. Epidemic, no. Like a demented madman picking petals out of a daisy, the government first issued an epidemic alert in Mumbai, and then retracted it four hours later. This was after 37 people died in a space of 48 hours, and the number of people hospitalised for "fever", a common symptom in many of the diseases likely at this time, increased to 749.

Also of interest: Mid Day has a break-up of cases across hospitals. Rediff has a story here on some of the afflicted. Mumbai Mirror points out that there is no testing facility for leptospirosis in the city, and samples of suspected patients have to be sent to either Pune or Port Blair. Rediff's FAQ on some common diseases is a useful read. And finally, Mumbai Mirror reports on how "Municipal Commissioner Johny Joseph got a earful from Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh" for "not divulging the correct figures".

Funds are not a problem

posted by amit varma at 5:51 PM2 comments

To counter the popular litany of how Mumbai pays a large share of the nation's taxes and doesn't get enough back, the Indian Express has a report that quotes a "top state bureaucrat" as saying: "Funds are not a problem, the quality of decision-making is." The report contunues:
The state government has dipped into kitty of Mumbai’s prime planning authority, the MMRDA, at least twice—Rs 1,000 crore was loaned to bail out the cotton crisis and around Rs 400 crore for the Krishna Valley Irrigation Project. The money has still not been returned.

‘‘Most funds are cornered by political lobbies from Western Maharashtra,’’ said a former finance secretary. ‘‘Legislators and MPs in Western Maharashtra, from all parties, are accountable to their constituencies. If they don’t bring in funds, they are finished.’’

That’s why on July 26, when Mumbai was marooned, Finance Minister Jayant Patil rushed 325 km southwards to his constituency, Sangli.

Patil returned only yesterday. ‘‘I was not assigned to go there,’’ he acknowledged. ‘‘I went on my own since my constituency suffered huge losses.’’

So Patil’s job—assessing damage, distributing ex-gratia and preparing a statement of losses for Central assistance—was left to his officials.


On that torrential Tuesday, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh spent precious time getting Sena rebel leader Narayan Rane sworn in as revenue minister. The next day, Rane rushed to his constituency in the Konkan, also hit hard by the floods.
There is a conflict of interest here that is written into the system: a member of parliament might reasonably feel that his first loyalties lie with the people who have voted him into power; but when he is a minister, his duty is towards the portfolio he has been given as well. Sometimes these interests collide, as now, and someone's going to feel shortchanged. Maybe, in at least this one respect, the American system works better.

This is also one of many reasonable arguments to make Mumbai a separate state, but there are also many reasonable arguments against that, so let's not go there.

Epidemics declared...

posted by uma at 6:51 AM1 comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

High fever and failure of vital organs

posted by amit varma at 6:54 PM1 comments

We had written earlier about the worries that an epidemic might break out after the cloudburst. Well, those worries have resurfaced, with 10 people dying in Mumbai since yesterday "due to high fever and failure of various vital organs." Mid Dayadds:
[H]ealth officials said today that 19 confirmed cases of cholera have been reported across the state, while Mumbai alone has 352 hepatitis, 30 leptospirosis and 10 dengue patients.

A total 11,684 cases of diarrhoea and gastroenteritis were reported (excluding Mumbai) till yesterday, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court tells the Maharashtra government to get its act together, as the state's advocate general claims that "the electronic media had created havoc with its coverage."

Bang, bang, bang. Hey, look, someone's firing at the messenger.

Update: PTI reports that Maharashtra's chief secretary has called a meeting to discuss (presumably emergency) measures to tackle the prospect of an epidemic. The toll in Mumbai keeps rising, and the pictures in this Mid Day story will give you some idea why. Also, here are some localised reports from Kalyan, Khar and the Ghoshte Colony in Kherwadi.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Magic Bus Appeals

posted by Harini Calamur at 11:02 AM1 comments

This was posted on the network board that i run.

Dear Friends,

As you know, Bombay is facing its biggest challenge. Magic Bus along with thousands of others is working very hard to put the city back together without losing its eternal spirit.

Many communities where our children live have been badly affected. Incessant rains have left most of them without food, clothing, utensils, beddings, etc. which is their sole lifetime belongings.

The need of the hour is to support them to bring normalcy in their life as soon as possible.

We plan to reach out to 550 families based in the Port Trust and Dharavi areas, hit by this catastrophe.

Magic Bus team has done a situational assessment of the specific needs by individually visiting each of these communities.

Food being a necessity is being widely distributed; we want to take it a step further and help resume their normal lives.

Following are the items that we have assessed, are needed by these communities and would like to provide.

1. Clothes ( For 290 families)
2. Bed sheets ( For 240 families)
3. Footwear 300 pairs (Rubber Chappals)
4. Utensils A set consisting of 1plate, I vessel to cook and one Spoon for cooking (minimum)
5. Foodgrain 650 families(5kgs Rice & 1kg Dal per family)
6. Plastic Sheets.for 175 families (5 meters per family)
7. Medicines (Crocine, Dependal, Chlorine Drops)

This is a time, when we are sure you want to volunteer in some way or the other towards the rehabilitation of our city and our children. Magic bus is providing a platform where we can all come together for this cause and work jointly, systematically in doing so. A committee will be in place, comprising of Magic Bus staff, volunteers & community workers to coordinate this project.

Due to the urgency of the problem, we plan to take an immediate action in this initiative. We would appreciate if you can send in your contribution, cash or kind before the 10th of August '05 to the address below for us to start the distribution of the relief items on 11th August '05.

Please be free to contact us if you need more information regarding the relief operation or any of our other programmes.

Thanking you

Katy & Purvi

Magic Bus
233 Adhyaru Estate
Sunmill Compound
Senapati Bapat Marg
Lower Parel
022-24954429 / 31
Cell nos Katy :9820451446 / Purvi :9820861634

Wanted, translators for a non-profit project, (preferably Bombay-based)

posted by zigzackly at 10:58 AM1 comments

Ideally, a Languages department in an ad agency, or a professional translation service. Provided you're willing to work for no money on a completely insane deadline. :) Individual offers of help are welcome too.
Some of the people behind this blog are also involved in a project that will bring out a free booklet of emergency information for the city's residents (what the floods revealed is that this kind of info is very difficult to find otherwise), and one other publication, which is being finalised.

The final product will be in four languages: Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, English.

Most of the content we have so far is in English. So Requirement One is people who can translate from English to the other three langauges.

But there will be original content in all four languages.

To cut to the chase, we need people who can competently translate:
English to Hindi, and Hindi to English
English to Marathi, and Marathi to English
English to Gujarati, and Gujarati to English
Marathi to Hindi, and Hindi to Marathi
Marathi to Gujarati, and Gujarati to Marathi
Hindi to Gujarati, and Gujarati to Hindi

We're also looking for
English to Tamil, Tamil to English
Tamil to Gujarati, Gujarati to Tamil
Tamil to Hindi, Hindi to Tamil
Tamil to Marathi, Marathi to Tamil
Tamil to Gujarati, Gujarati to Tamil
English to Bangla, Bangla to English
Bangla to Gujarati, Gujarati to Bangla
Bangla to Hindi, Hindi to Bangla
Bangla to Marathi, Marathi to Bangla
Bangla to Gujarati, Gujarati to Bangla

It would be ideal if the translators concerned can generate soft copy in all the languages they handle.

We want Bombay-based people because the project is on a manic deadline, and this would save coordination time. However, if we can find at least one person who has more than a passing acquaintance with all four languages, who is willing to coordinate and take responsibility for the translation exercise, we'd be thrilled.

We must tell you that this is a project where all concerned are offering their services gratis, so we'd be looking for people who will help for FREE.

If you can do this, or put us on to people who can, we'd be very grateful.

Mail Peter Griffin at zigzackly AT gmail DOT com, and put the words [ThinkMumbai] in the subject line (with the square brackets), to get past the spam filters.

Floods in Karnataka

posted by amit varma at 10:44 AM2 comments

Remmeber our earlier post about Vilasrao Deshmukh's request that Karnataka release more water from the Almatti Dam? Deshmukh claimed that there would be floods in Sangli and Kolhapur if his request wasn't accepted, and Karnataka, in turn, claimed that several of their villages would be submerged if they listened to Deshmukh. Well, guess what: floods have struck Karnataka.

The Almatti Dam dispute may well have nothing to do with it, but it underscores that not just Mumbai, not just Maharashtra, but the whole country has been hit hard by the rains, to different degrees. This monsoon, the gods have been generous to a fault.

Now Shanghai gets hit

posted by amit varma at 12:30 AM2 comments

Shanghai, often spoken of as being a benchmark for Mumbai, has also been hit by the weather. According to this report:
Xinhua news agency said seven people were killed in the metropolis, four of whom were electrocuted when power lines were brought down.

The typhoon flooded 20,000 houses, uprooted 2,700 trees and destroyed 400 high-tension power lines in the city. Its two airports, Hongqiao and Pudong, were closed for 30 hours.
Also read Xinhua's account of the aftermath. The typhoon was supposed to be heading towards Belijing, where the authorities were planning to "evacuate about 40,000 people living close to mountains in suburban Beijing should there be a threat of landslides or flooding." It hasn't yet arrived there.

Gaurav, who sent some of these links, points out via email that "the rains were still [just] 15 cm, and it flooded many parts of Shanghai. We got more than 6 times the rain!" He also points out that a few of the deaths in Shanghai were caused by electrocution, a fate wisely avoided in Mumbai by Relaince Energy shutting off power wherever it was unsafe to keep it on, for which they were rather unjustly criticised.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Nearby city

posted by Dilip D'Souza at 1:13 AM1 comments

The July 26 deluge rates a mention here, but I'm not sure what "nearby Bombay" means. Never mind. Thanks, Rajni B for the pointer.

The heroism of ordinary people

posted by amit varma at 12:38 AM1 comments

Just how remarkable was the way Mumbai's citizens rushed to each other's aid after the cloudburst? For crisis situations, it was perhaps par for the course. Baruch Fischhoff writes in the New York Times, in the context of similar "social coordination" after the Air France crash of last week:
While this sort of behavior is often described as remarkable, it is actually what researchers have come to expect. Studies of civilians' intense experiences in the London Blitz; the cities of Japan and Germany in World War II; the 1947 smallpox outbreak in New York; the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, in 1995; and even fires have found that people, however stressed, almost always keep their wits and elevate their humanity.

Indeed, the critical first responders in almost any crisis are ordinary citizens whom fate has brought together. As Kathleen Tierney, head of the University of Colorado's Natural Hazards Center, has noted, "The vast majority of live rescues are carried out by community residents who are at the scene of disasters, not by official response agencies or outside search and rescue teams."
In other words, helping others in a crisis is hardwired in us. Comforting.

(Link via email from Ravikiran, via Instapundit.)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The ICE campaign - In Case of Emergency

posted by Charukesi at 2:55 AM4 comments

I received this message on email and since this is a good idea for any disaster, I thought of posting it here (hoping it has not been posted before!).


Due to the recent bombing in London and floods in Mumbai, there has been a tremendous push to launch the International "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) campaign.

As you know, many people were injured in these incidents. Many of those injured were found with their cell phones. First responders used the injured person's cell phone to try and locate a family member that they could notify on the injured persons behalf. However the rescuers found it difficult to locate the appropriate person.

Wireless subscribers are now being asked by Public Safety Officials all over the world to store the word "ICE" in their wireless phone address book and put their next of kin's phone number next to it.

In the event of an emergency, this person would be contacted quickly by ambulance and hospital staff. It's just that easy! (Source: BBC News)

Please take a moment to program someone that you would like to be contacted in case of an emergency into your cell phone with the word "ICE".
Public Safety officials around the world will know what this means.

Forward it to as many persons you can, this is a good idea.

Do not forget to do it on your mobile first.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Lethal astrology

posted by Dilip D'Souza at 10:11 PM2 comments

Should have known. I asked earlier if any numerologists have swung into action to tell us about how 26 is our unlucky number. The answer, bless them, is yes. Maria Abraham reports in the Hindustan Times today ("26th: India's date with disasters?", August 8):
    What does Terrible Tuesday, when Bombay was inundated, have in common with the earthquake in Gujarat four years ago and the tsunami which struck the southern coast last December, leading to hundreds ot deaths? All of them happened on the 26th, and numerologists say it all adds up to a lethal astrological reason for India's date with disasters...

    [R]eputed numerologist Sanjay B Jumaani, known for advising Bollywood and cricket stars, said he had actually mentioned in a radio programme a day before the deluge that July 26th would be an inauspicious day.

Well! I'm convinced! Boy, was that wet Tuesday an inauspicious day or was it an inauspicious day!

This deserves more, which I'll get to soon.

Appeal to webmasters from AID

posted by zigzackly at 8:49 PM1 comments

Association for India's Development requests those of you with websites or blogs of your own to display their fund-raising banner.

Here's the HTML you can copy and paste:

<a href=""><img src="" border="0" text="Support Mumbai Flood Survivors" /></a>

The Rain that Did Not Discriminate

posted by uma at 5:25 PM2 comments

Kalpana Sharma in The Hindu, on Mumbai's work ethic, and the rain that did not discriminate:
People in the rest of the country, who saw images of hordes of people in Mumbai patiently making their way through waist deep water, must have been puzzled. Were Mumbaikars crazy to step out in such weather? But what those images illustrate is an ethic, perhaps unique to the people of Mumbai. It is their determination to get to work, and their belief that they can get back home, rain or shine.

Bunty, Babli and the Policeman

posted by uma at 4:53 PM1 comments

How one man in khaki, his ragtag team and a rickety boat took charge:
Kadam’s wife decided she’d handle the water in the house; he could go out and do his bit at the Air India, Indian Airlines and New Air India colonies, a sprawling staffers complex of some 100 buildings.

"I literally had to swim. It was a little scary,"says Kadam..."I’d heard the airline colonies were in bad shape and water even on the approach road was around eight-feet high...None of the people, who were crying, running around, even dying, would listen to me.
Read on for a story of courage and commitment.

Being seen to be good

posted by amit varma at 2:13 PM4 comments

The Indian Expresswrites:
Over the past three days, as officials cranked up relief, there’s been a great, messy push among Congress MLAs, ministers, innumerable corporators and political wannabes to corner food, kerosene and other relief now being distributed by the state.

So being eight months pregnant did not deter prospective Congress MP Priya Dutt—daughter of late star and Mumbai North West MP Sunil Dutt—as she roamed the miserable bylanes of Kalina near the international airport. Thousands got handouts, leaving out those deep inside the dark interiors of the slum. "At least, aid is not falling into the wrong hands," said Dutt on Thursday, accompanied by husband Owen Roncon. "We’ve brought it to the people."

The next day, The Sunday Express received a call from an agitated aspirant to the same constituency—also from the Congress: "Why is she getting all the publicity?"

Across town, Sharif Khan, brother of Kurla Congress MLA Naseem Khan, slapped S Annamalai, husband of Congress corporator Lalita Annamalai, for not inviting the former minister to a relief-distribution function.

"He wanted to know why I had not invited his brother," said Annamalai. Countered Khan: "Annamalai has been bad-mouthing me and my brother in television interviews."

MLAs, corporators and others criticised heavily for their absence during the rain—citizens in the western suburb of Oshiwara offered a reward for their MP, film star Govinda, who defends himself on television—are now popping up with alacrity.
I like that bit about people who voted for Govinda offering a reward for him after he disappeared. Right out of a David Dhawan comedy. I don't understand what the newspaper is saying about Priya Dutt, though. Is it saying that she was sincere, or that she was opportunistic?

The article, titled "The 944-mm Lesson", takes a cursory look at what Mumbai's officials can do to turn the city around, and includes a nice quote from Anand Mahindra in which he says that Mumbai is "a blip on the world’s radar screen."

Heck, you look at how the sensex keeps going up and up, and you'd think that Mumbai is a blip on Mumbai's radar screen.

Long and winding roads no more

posted by amit varma at 8:01 AM1 comments

33,417 kilometres of roads have been destroyed in Maharashtra, according to this PTI report. Official sources have been cited as putting the death toll in the state at 1056, and the estimated financial damage to be worth Rs 9000 crore (apprx. US$2.07 billion).

LK Advani has demanded that the central government provide Rs 5000 crore (apprx. US$1.15 billion) towards relief work in Maharashtra. Reliance Industries Limited has announced a donation of Rs 5 crore (apprx. US$1.15 million) to the Red Cross, and the USA has announced that it is contributing US$100,000 (apprx. Rs 43.5 lakh) to relief efforts.

Meanwhile, Vilasrao Deshmukh has made a request of Karnataka's chief minister. He has said, "Karnataka should release more water from the Almatti dam so as not to cause floods in Sangli and Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra." The report states:
About four lakh cusecs of water is being let out from the Almatti Dam while Maharashtra is seeking release of six lakh cusecs. Karnataka, however, claims it is releasing the maximum water it can from the dam and has said if it goes any further, several villages in that state will be submerged.
Do we have a crisis here, or are both sides just playing water politics? If both sides are stating the truth, then floods are inevitable somewhere. What a thought.

35 marooned villages, 70,000 people

posted by amit varma at 2:30 AM1 comments

Zee News reports:
Incessant rains since last week has claimed over 20 lives and affected about 70,000 people living in 35 marooned villages of Kolhapur district, a senior official said today [sic].

"The floods caused by the heavy downpour and the swollen Krishna and other rivers in the district have directly affected some 70,000 people from 35 villages. Of these, 40,000 have been shifted to 53 relief camps set up at various parts of the district," Resident Deputy Collector D K Shinde said here.
This just serves to remind us that while most of Mumbai may well be "limping back to normal", as the cliche goes, in the affected parts of the city and a lot of Maharashtra, relief work may take months, and some of the damage done, to both property and lives, may be irrepairable.

On a tangent, the article on the Zee News website says that this is a "Bureau Report", while the same article in the Hindu is credited to PTI. One of them is messing around.

A vortex in the Met Department

posted by amit varma at 1:03 AM10 comments

A few days back S R Kalsi, the additional director general of meteorology, had forecast in an interview that we took rather seriously that there would be heavy rains "any time on or after August 5". Well, yesterday was August 5, and the weather's been a tease since then, often overcast, hardly drizzling. Could it be -- shock, horror -- that Mr Kalsi did not know what he was talking about? The Telegraphreports:
The meteorology experts, who had failed to predict last week’s deluge in Mumbai, today said they haven’t yet found out why it happened.

Still, at a post-mortem of the record 944 mm rain that traumatised the city on July 26, weather scientists tried to come up with a theory before science and technology minister Kapil Sibal. They said they suspect a meteorological condition called a “vortex” caused the freak rain.

They admitted they had no evidence for this.
Another excerpt from the article:
[Akhilesh] Gupta [a scientist] said the UK weather office did manage to predict 800 mm rain over Mumbai when it ran a computer model; but it could do this only after the event, using weather parameters after the downpour. “It could not predict the Mumbai rain in real time,” Gupta said. [My emphasis.]
All of this underscores how little we understand the weather, and how ludicrously inexact all these complex weather forecasting models are. And it amuses me that when we can barely predict the weather a week from now, we have environmentalists pontificating on weather changes that global warming will cause a century from now. How can one not be sceptical?

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Ride Begins

posted by uma at 11:09 PM1 comments

Here is an Express Newsline report about taking a slow train through the suburbs:
A group of card-playing friends misses its regular gambler from Thane—post-deluge, he is yet to be traced.
Otherwise, things are more or less the same as always:
A man at the door slaps the bottom of a lady walking on the platform and gets appreciative glances and whistles from fellow commuters.
And at CST, 10:09 am:
"Meet you at 6 pm at Platform No 7" is ignored as somebody else shouts: "You take this paper, give it to me in the evening. The first Kalyan train after the Ladies Special."

United Way

posted by Dilip D'Souza at 10:25 AM1 comments

United Way seems pretty far along in identifying NGOs/projects that need help. See here.

Give, but Sensitively and Appropriately, Please

posted by uma at 9:09 AM1 comments

Please see this post and this one about donating clothes for flood relief. As Amit and Dilip have pointed out, donating inappropriate clothes could just lead to more heaps of waste lying by the roadside, as happened in the tsunami-affected areas. On the other hand, here is an organisation, Goonj, that is sensitive to the poor's anxiety about clothes. Here is a brief note on their recycling model in Good News India (itself a fine site). Briefly, Goonj seems to have pioneered a reuse model that works on three links: collection, processing, and distribution. Here is an extract from the article:
"Garments and linen are inspected for cleanliness, washed or repaired where necessary, folded with care, slotted to various destinations and packed in clean sacks. Goonj does not accept or distribute undergarments like bras, panties and briefs, as these have the potential to hurt recipients' self-esteem. Unusable or rejected pieces are further processed to create saleable articles that fund Goonj's operations. The most popular is the door mat, made of twisted rag strips, hand-sewn together... At collection camps, donors often get pumped up enough to bring in old newspapers and bottles which are sold, with proceeds to Goonj. Companies let Goonj carry away heaps of discarded xerox copies. Goonj brings them over and pounces on the blank-side. They make note pads out of them for sale. Goonj has never bought paper for correspondence or promotions. It uses only discarded one-side unused paper....Goonj has now begun the 'School to School Programme' which seeks to channel city children's old books, lunch boxes, water bottles, uniforms shoes and so on to rural children. There is also their winter-watch, when Goonj volunteers patrol Delhi's streets to give away warm blankets to shivering poor."
What impresses me is both the sensitivity and the simplicity of the process. Among other useful innovations, Goonj has apparently developed that most useful of hygiene items for poor women and girls: the low-cost sanitary napkin. A very humane and most useful innovation for women who have suffered for years using dirty rags: "They use any rag to dry themselves- it's usually a dirty rag. They get infected, often the low-grade kind, not quite the killer variety. They exist with it, in the background, not quite dead but barely living."

Goonj has been based in Delhi with other centres but had not yet set up base in Mumbai. Hearing about the Mumbai floods and the immediate need for relief work here, the organisation has now located a space to start its work here.

Here are details of the Goonj contact person and their just-identified collection centre in Mumbai: the contact person is called Jasmine, her number (this information is being provided here with her permission) is 9324222219, and her email

The collection address is:
RBI Society
A4 Akshay Bldg
(in the lane opp Food Inn)
Andheri West

Jasmine requests that anyone going across to this collection centre should please call her in advance, so that she can ensure that someone will be present to collect the materials.

They are looking for donations of: clothes, sheets, dry rations (oil, sugar, rice etc), medical supplies and - important - SCHOOL supplies.

They will also be looking for volunteers to help with the sorting, but that will be the next step, after the collection commences.

Cross-posted at Indian Writing.
Thanks to Neela and Charu for first pointing me to the work that Goonj does.

Apart from the tales of devastation

posted by Patrix at 8:56 AM2 comments

Mukta writes an interesting personal account with the Mumbai rains as the backdrop. We hear plenty of tales of devastation and people walking home in chest-high water. But sometimes, we hear such personal accounts of what people really do when they are safe and sound. A bit elitist but heartwarming nevertheless. This was originally cited on DesiPundit.

Water treatment

posted by Dilip D'Souza at 4:04 AM2 comments

In addition to the excellent links here, some excerpts from "Water Purification", a chapter in The Traveller’s Handbook (Globe Pequot Press, London, 1988):

    Three points about advice on water treatment can cause misunderstanding.

    Firstly, there is no need to kill or remove all the micro-organisms in water. …

    Secondly, in theory, no normal treatment method will produce infinitely safe drinking water. …

    Thirdly, beware the use of words like ‘pure’, ‘disinfect’ and ‘protection’, common claims in many manufacturers’ carefully written prose. …

    Treatment of a water supply:

    Boiling: Boiling at 100 degrees C kills all organisms found in water except a few such as slow viruses and spores which are not dangerous if drunk. ... To make water safe for drinking you should bring water to a full boil for at least two minutes. ... Do not cool water down with untreated water.

    Chemical treatment:

    There are broadly three germicidal chemicals used for drinking water treatment...

    1) Silver. Completely harmless, taste free and very long lasting effect, protecting stored water for up to sic months. The sterlisation process is quite slow and it is necessary to leave water for at least two hours before use.

    2) Chlorine. Completely harmless, fast acting and 100 per cent effective if used correctly. A minimum of ten minutes is req2uired before water can be used. ... If in doubt, we recommend that the period before use be extended to at least 20 and preferably 30 minutes.

    3) Iodine. Fast acting and very effective, normally taking ten minutes before water is safe to use. ... Iodine can have serious, lasting physiological side effects and should not be used over an extended period.


These are just sketchy details, and I haven't covered filtration. But two final points.

One, I have personally used Zero-B in various situations with all kinds of water and ... well, I'm alive.

Two, if forced to take water from some outside source, choose quickly running water if you can.

Contaminated water

posted by amit varma at 12:34 AM13 comments

Mid Day reports (I am reproducing the article in full because it's important):
A test conducted on 84 water samples from different parts of the city on July 29 at the BMC laboratory at Dadar (W) revealed that 58 samples in the lot was unfit for human consumption. [Sic.] Some samples were found to be contaminated by dangerous Ecoli bacteria.

Said hydraulic engineer T V Shah, “Underground water tanks get contaminated during the rains when dirty water enters the tanks during flooding. The tanks should be chlorinated thoroughly.”

Adds a source within the BMC, “At some places sewage water was found to have leaked into drinking water tanks, making the water absolutely unfit for drinking.”
Well, here's a question for the readers: would you know what one can do (besides buying mineral water, which not all of us can afford) to make sure that the water we drink is safe? Will boiling it suffice? Will filtering it through Aquaguard be sufficient? What about Zero B?

If you have an answer to that, please leave it in the comments of this post. Any links you could provide would be useful as well.

Shortage of medicines

posted by amit varma at 12:31 AM1 comments

NDTV reports that there is a shortage of medicines in Mumbai, and there are two reasons behind this. Firstly, it reports:
[R]umours about stocks of medicines getting over are leading to panic among the people, and many are buying it without having the need for it.

As a result, the shortage of medicines may actually take place, and those really in need, may not find them in the market.
And secondly:
The heavy rains have had a severe impact on pharma companies, and many of them have suffered losses of hundreds of crores.

About a thousand dispensaries have also been completely ruined.

Digging up the dead

posted by amit varma at 12:16 AM5 comments

The Times of Indiareports:
The rains may have broken lives, limbs and and homes but they’ve made not the slightest dent in the great bureaucratic machine.

The Thane tehsildar’s office is demanding that the Sheikhs, a poor couple from Mumbra who lost their two-moth-old baby to the deluge, should exhume the body and conduct a post-mortem in order to claim the Rs 50,000 compensation.

This despite a receipt from the kabrastaan affirming the burial and any number of witnesses who watched the shivering, drenched baby die.
So after the one-time disaster of the cloudburst, we have the perennial disaster of the Indian bureaucracy to deal with. And these men, the ones who ask for dead babies to be dug up, get their salaries from the taxes that we pay. What a shame that after 50 years of this nonsense, we still haven't been able to ensure that our money is spent wisely.

Did He Or Didn't He?

posted by Sonia Faleiro at 12:04 AM2 comments

On Thursday, Anil Ambani's Reliance Energy claims that it has restored power in all the suburbs, many of which were in darkness for a week. Two days previously, I recieved an SMS from the company, which stated that 98% of power had been restored. Today, this report in The Indian Express:
Satyajeevan Society and Om Nivas Society on LBS Road, Kurla (West) and Asalfa Village in Ghatkopar (West) are among at least 15,000 families in Kurla (W) and Ghatkopar (W), who are Reliance Energy consumers and are reportedly still without power—10 days after they lost it when the rains started on July 26.

"If there are houses still without power, it is due to a local fault which we are attending to on a war footing," Yogendra Vasishta, vice-president, Reliance Energy, said. Residents, though, beg to differ. "We still don’t have power here and people are close to breaking point. And because there’s no power, we can’t even pump water into our houses,’’ says freelance journalist Priyanka Kapoor (19).

After intense pressure from desperate consumers and a much-criticised state administration, Reliance Energy restored power with generators around 1 am on Thursday, but that was short-lived comfort.

Recalls Supriya Sawant (24), a marketing executive with Eureka Forbes:"We got power but it collapsed again at 11 am. How far can you rely on generators?"
Read more here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

NGO Coordination committee formed

posted by Dilip D'Souza at 11:41 PM2 comments

Is Cloudburst involved with this?


Municipal Commissioner, Mr. Johny Joseph, had called a meeting of NGOs on 4th Aug at BMC. About 20 NGOs and 15 BMC officials were present.

An NGO Co-ordination committee for flood relief was formed.

The committee would act as a clearing house to convey info from the field to BMC and vice versa. The info would be to and from NGOs, donors, and all supporters.

- NGOs should give all possible feedback twice a day of the actual situation in their areas - materials needed, services needed, where the govt machinery has not reached, what all needs to be done, what are the problems being faced, a report on the situation.
- If NGOs have any questions regarding govt reliefs or procedures or announcements, they should ask those also.
- All offers from donors, volunteers, etc. of money, material, services, and manpower should also be conveyed to BMC.

BMC, in turn, will do the following:
- follow-up with the ward officers and other govt resources at their disposal
- co-ordinate with donors and corporates to help out urgently
- give clarifications about the procedures and also ensure that relief measures are implemented without delay or friction

The Coordination Committee will consist of:
- Ms. Farida Lambay of Nirmala Niketan, who will co-ordinate with all NGOs for Western Suburbs i.e. all H, K, P and R wards.
- Ms. Leena Joshi of Apnalaya, who along with TISS will co-ordinate with all NGOs for Eastern Suburbs i.e. all L and M wards
- Mr. Dinesh Kakkoth of CRY 23096845 / 6472 and Dr. Medha Somaiya of Yuvak Pratisthan who will co-ordinate with NGOs for the Central Suburbs i.e. all N, S and T wards.
- Ms. Armida Fernandes of Sneha or 24042627 who will co-ordinate with NGOs for F-north and G-north wards.
- Mr. Begur of Unicef 28269727 / 28253663 X 103 who are mapping the detailed needs of the 7 most affected wards and co-ordinating with various international NGOs.
- Times Foundation Helpline: 56354376 / 45 who will also disseminate the official info via the newspapers and radio.
- Vinay Somani of Karmayog which will post all needs and offers on the Flooding section at along with all FAQs, queries of NGOs and clarifications by BMC, other info by BMC, etc.

All NGOs and all others are requested to convey their info or qs to any person above who they think would be most suitable for their problem. They will then co-ordinate with BMC.

Everyone can also convey directly to the BMC Disaster Control Room: Phone: 1916 or 108 or 22694725 / 7 or Fax 22694719. Needs and Offers can be emailed to Complaints can be also posted online via Praja as these are being monitored continuously and also simultaneously go to the ward office.

Do feel free to contact us at Karmayog via email

I understand that many are sceptical of the BMC responding to specific problems but I do think that we all should seriously try out this concept of a Co-ordination Committee.

If you would like to be in or to help the committee, do email me.

Karmayog mailing list

Metropolis on the brink

posted by sunilrnair at 9:28 PM2 comments

"I must have passed by a hundred times, my glance skittering away guiltily from the rows of bare backsides lining the street. Men, women and children who have quietly buried their modesty, and walked past that last outpost of human dignity to conduct their most private ritual on a public city road. At Rahul Nagar in Govandi, Mumbai, the only other alternative is to join the snaking queue to the lone municipal toilet, often a two hour wait."

Farah Baria of Indian Express speaks about the Metropolis on the brink

Mumbai suburbs need to break up

posted by sunilrnair at 4:12 AM1 comments

"Despite the money it turns over to the city's coffers, despite boasting of better amenities, the suburbs are treated with civic and administrative apathy. Squalid and inferior roads that give way in the monsoon's first flush are the norm. Nothing describes this official disparity than my little daughter's comment on visiting Marine Drive once: 'Dad, how come this part of Mumbai is so clean and where we live so dirty? We don't pay any tax?' We do, I had to explain to her, it is our money that keeps this part of the city the way it is."

That quote is from Saisuresh Sivaswamy's column on rediff

Updates in Maharashtra

posted by amit varma at 3:35 AM1 comments

Mumbai Mirror has some updates from different parts of Maharashtra. Their links cease to work after a day, so I'm reproducing a summary here:
50,000 people evacuated to safer places in Sangli. 25,000 more will be shifted soon
hectares of agricultural land affected in Kolhapur and 30,000 in Sangli
people shifted to safer places in Kolhapur after large areas were indundated
3,000 people shifted from 38 villages in Satara district as Koyna and Dhom dams overflow
cusecs of water released from Pandharpur dam
Meanwhile, Mid Day reports that 10 lakh (one million) families have been affected by the rains in Maharashtra. It lists out the compensation offered by the state government:
Rs 1 lakh: For every adult who died in the floods
Rs 50,000: for every minor who died
Rs 5,000: to all those affected by the floods (all income groups)
10 kilos of foodgrains: to all the affected.

The Zinta Committee report

Preity Zinta writes in the Indian Express about what should be done by the government to ensure that we are better prepared for future calamities. Her statements of the obvious are punctuated with cliches and banalities, but one suggestion stands out:

Written by Pankaj Joshi | Updated: September 1, 2017 10:52 am

Garbage accumulated on LBS road after excessive rains in Mumbai. Express photo by Prashant Nadkar

First of all, a comparison between the excessive rains that hit Mumbai earlier this week, on August 29, and the floods 12 years ago, on July 26, 2005, which brought the Mumbai Metropolitan Region to its knees.

In 2005, a 24-hour period saw 944 mm of rain, which took a huge toll on the city. At least 450 lives were lost during the floods, and another 248 later, while 300,000 citizens required medical attention. The floods caused damage to 20,000 cars, 2,500 BEST buses, and countless number of two and three-wheelers. Around 200,000 tonnes of garbage — washed away or water-soaked furniture, foodstuffs, appliances — had to be cleared up. Furthermore, to prevent an epidemic of monsoon-related diseases, 24 metric tonnes of bleaching powder and 2 metric tonnes of disinfectant were used.

The cloudburst of 2005, a freak occurrence, demonstrated the inability of the city to cope with unbridled development. It revealed that the administration was woefully unprepared to face disasters.

In contrast, 330mm of rain fell on August 29. Mumbai’s response was substantially different. Five stormwater pumping stations, 229 dewatering pumps and 50 sewage pumping stations extricated 7,000 million litres into the sea. As many as 69 schools were converted into shelters, accommodating 5,000 people.

The administration, police and Mumbaikars at large ensured that the city was more organised this time. Unlike 2005, when civic workers could not report back on duty, on August 29, 28,000 civic workers removed 9,500 metric tonnes of garbage.

But the old problem of multiple planning authorities — Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, Slum Redevelopment Authority, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd – remains. A variety of careless development permissions and reckless infrastructure execution are equally, if not more, responsible for the flooding in the city.

After the 2005 floods, under the chairmanship of Dr Madhavrao Chitale, a fact finding committee of experts was set up to assess the disaster preparedness and management of Mumbai. A comprehensive report was published the following year, which became a handbook of sorts for the municipal corporation, and significantly influenced the 2009 national guidelines on urban flood management. However, the Committee’s recommendations continue to be sluggishly implemented for over a decade.

Mumbai’s monsoon problems — potholes, overflowing drains, flooding — are manifestations of a larger fundamental urban planning issue. The city managers, urban planners and developers seem to turn a blind eye to the real challenges of climate change, seemingly reliant on the Donald Trumpian disbelief towards global warming and rising sea levels.

Storm Water Drainage

Mumbai’s drainage system can deal with about 25 mm of rain per hour. In the suburbs, the drainage capacity is expected to double to 50 mm per hour through the Brimstowad (an awkward acronym for Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal system) projects. But, every year, Mumbai records several days of heavy rainfall, exceeding 65 mm per hour, which means extended flooding. Even the proposed enhanced drainage capacity of 50 mm per hour won’t be able to deal with this. It might, therefore, be better to design and execute the stormwater drain’s capacity to 100mm per hour.

When we construct over green, open spaces, or permit ‘innovative’ green spaces on concrete surfaces, the rain falls on these impervious surfaces. Instead of being absorbed into the earth and replenishing ground water, it gushes down drains and nullahs, overflowing onto roads. Our already overwhelmed storm water drainage networks are further overloaded, leading to waterlogging and severe flooding.

• Better inter-agency coordination is needed to ensure that building permissions are not recklessly approved on low-lying, flood-prone areas.

• Mumbai needs more pumping stations. However, given the BMC’s current rate of project implementation, it would take two decades to install six new pumping stations at a whopping cost of Rs 3000 crore.

• Allowing development contrary to the natural water course collapses the city’s defences against the monsoon’s onslaught. The Storm Water Drains department’s topographic contours map, created using aerial photography and photogrammetric mapping, must be carefully studied while planning for flood management.

• A refurbishment of stormwater drains, sewerage operations and solid waste management systems seems inevitable, including digging up and resurfacing of roads. Though this will entail a massive expenditure of taxpayers’ money, it will be worthwhile when compared to the cost of significantly disrupting city life every year, adding hidden public and private costs in recovery and rehabilitation.

Natural watershed and drains

It is important to also take a look at the streams and seasonal nullahs which typically dry up after the monsoons. Like in other parts of the Konkan, Mumbai also has natural creeks and nullahs, or rather, had nullahs that are now just stinking gutters. Slums routinely empty waste and industries pipe untreated effluents into them. Often, sewer lines end in natural stormwater drains. Their deposits add silt to the nullahs, which means that shallow nullahs already have reduced capacity to drain storm water.

In 2005, the flooding of the Mithi river also hugely contributed to the deluge. Concerted effort needs to be made to provide basic civic amenities to slum residents which will assist in hygienically disposing their waste.

The first phase of deepening and widening of the Mithi river was completed in June 2006. The second phase, which started in April 2007 and relocated 5,000 structures, remains to be completed, as 1,300 structures yet to be relocated.

Specific guidelines should be in place, so that strict action is taken against anyone, notably industries, from polluting these streams.

We, the responsible citizens of Mumbai, must also refrain from dumping waste in stormwater drains.

Natural Open spaces

As per the Revised Draft Development Plan 2034 (RDDP), allocation of open spaces is 2.8 per person, just over one-fourth the standard space of 10 sq. mt per person (set out in the National Urban and Regional Development Planning Formulation and Implementation Guideline, Ministry of Urban Development).

But the proposed RDDP opens up No-Development Zones (NDZs) for construction and advocates building of roads on mangroves and other natural areas.

Similarly, permitting recreational spaces on open-to-sky podiums of buildings, or underground parking lots below gardens and playgrounds may seem attractive and add large swathes of green to the city. But these are in fact impervious concrete surfaces which hamper the rate of stormwater run-off. Such provisions are also contrary to the standing 2013 Supreme Court judgement which prohibits mandatory open spaces on podium.

• Natural green spaces are not just good for the soul; they play a very important role in increasing the rate of groundwater percolation, act like holding ponds and increase the rainfall’s ‘time of retention’, thereby drastically reducing the pressure on stormwater drains in the city.

• The State must pay heed to the Bombay HC’s scathing criticism towards destroying mangroves under the garb of “development.” The BMC must not only protect mangroves, which aid in preventing soil erosion, but also protect the National Park, Aarey Colony and salt pan lands. These natural resources may not be public open spaces which we can use for recreational purposes, but play a huge role in protecting the city from the ravages of the monsoon, absorbing rainfall and replenishing water sources.

Disaster Preparedness: Rescue,Relief, and Recovery

Disaster management without a plan is like Swachch Mumbai without dustbins, a Walkable Mumbai without footpaths or a Digital Mumbai without internet connectivity for all. The BMC has a state-size budget with crores spent annually on operations, maintenance and repairs. And yet, we remain only a step away from another 2005. This annual token exercise of pre-monsoon preparation by the various departments of the BMC will hardly prevent a disaster-in-waiting.

Mumbai, in 2017, exhibited coordination amongst the state, local authority, institutions, religious/ social bodies and private actors. This network needs to be documented, strengthened and disseminated under a tangible post-disaster strategy.

Floods in Uttarakhand (2013 and 2016), Chennai (2015) and Mumbai (2005 and 2017) demonstrate that unregulated construction on natural drains and riverbeds precipitated devastating floods. But the state seems to be reluctant to learn from these mistakes.

Celebrated architect and visionary Charles Correa, once in a conversation on Mumbai, would often bring up the parable of a frog in water – if you drop a frog in hot water, it will immediately jump out. But if you drop it in tepid water and slowly raise the temperature, it will swim around unawares, adjusting itself to the heat till it dies.

We wonder if Mumbai will ever be able to leap out of the boiling water?

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