Mumbai’s Stressed Infrastructure: STOP THE BUCK
While State Chief Minister talks of making Mumbai like Shanghai, the frequent bridge collapses expose the sham of Mumbai becoming a World class city.
Text: Sapna Srivastava
In September 2017, a stampede broke out on a railway bridge at Elphinstone Station Bridge during peak office hours killing 22 and injuring over 30 people.
In July 2018, part of a 40-year-old bridge at the Andheri station collapsed amid heavy rain and five people were injured.
On March 14, 2019, the collapse of the foot over bridge near Mumbai’s ChhatrapatiShivajiMaharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station left 6 dead and 33 injured
On April 11, 2019, part of a foot overbridge (FOB) collapsed at Sector 8 in Vashi, injuring two people, In less than four years there have been four bridge collapses that more than speak for the sorry state of Mumbai infrastructure. The alarming rate that these high pedestrian usage structures are crumbling, indicates the deep-rooted inefficiencies in the state authorities departments.
Dr. Neville A. Mehta , CEO, Mumbai First, the think tank for Mumbai to facilitate the restructuring of city through various Public Private Partnership expressed his anguish, “Mumbai’s infrastructure is fractured in various places & departments. Quick fix bandages are used to tide a problem till it becomes a disaster or a problem with a very big magnitude & then & only then does the administration start to act & perform damage control by passing the buck within various departments. Nobody is accountable or liable for negligence or dereliction of duties. That is why we need a CEO for Mumbai who can have the charge of all the departments & has the authority to coordinate & control the infrastructure administration flawlessly.”
These are some of the measures of Municipal authorities after the incidents.
After the Himalaya Bridge collapse near CSMT, the Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation began surveying FOBs all over the city.
The Central Railway has listed nine FOBs in Diva, Kurla, Kasaiwada, Bhandup, Mulund, Govandi, Vidyavihar, Vikhroli, and Tilaknagar to be dismantled as they are not safe to travel.
The two FOBs connecting Wadala station and Wadala (East) near New Nadkarni Park Colony have been declared beyond repair and are closed till further notice. As Dr Mehta rightly pointed out, the very word ‘Maintenance’, by itself suggests that the civic authorities have to maintain an existing structure. A comprehensive evaluation on a periodic basis is absolutely necessary that assess structure’s stability, surrounding areas, the regular cleanliness including coats of paint, lighting and accessibility. “We need to engage Qualified & Certified structural engineers who have the Credibility & Integrity along with excellent knowledge on the subject matter. Furthermore, the contract should include a clause which would hold the vendor/consultant legally liable for damages & prosecution which could be strict & stringent,” he added.
TIME FOR CITIZENS TO STOP TOLERATING
The callous remarks by government representatives like, “excessive pedestrians walking on the footbridge caused it to collapse” or “incessant rains caused the deadly stampede leading to collapse” just goes out to show the apathy of those in charge towards public safety. In terms of accountability, Railway Ministry claims, the over bridges are under the control of Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Corporation, while corporation bosses promise to investigate the matter and suspend some junior officers without any accountability on higher-ups. What’s worse, there is little resistance to this grave maladministration from citizens. Even the chief justice of the Bombay High court NareshPatil on CSMT bridge collapse hearing, commented that the municipal corporation in Mumbai is taking advantage of the tolerance of the citizens.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) meagre measures of action on the contractor, the structural safety auditor and some civic body officials just serve to pacify public anger. On the issue of structures collapsing despite the conducting of audits, it is sometimes the politicians rather than the engineers that decide whether the bridge should be closed for repairs or decommissioned. More often than not, to stay in good books of public, they let the high traffic bridge function, in spite of its dangerous condition. It is time for far-reaching administrative reforms and actions against the higher authorities in Municipal corporations to put a stop to the dire lapses in ensuring citizen’s safety. It is also time for the civil society to wake up & create hue and cry, forcing those in power to either take appropriate action or face public ire. And what better time for that than the General Elections 2019