Today marks the second anniversary of the great Mumbai floods of 2005. The day when Mumbai stood still. The day when Mumbai’s façade of a mega polis was shattered. The day when all problems plaguing this great city came to the fore. The day Mumbai’s music, truly, died.
On July 26, 2005 Mumbai received 944 mm (37.2 inches) of rainfall in 24 hours flooding most of the city. In all, the floods took more than 400 lives. Mumbai’s airports were shut for more than 30 hours with more than 700 flights canceled. It caused an epidemic of leptospirosis taking 66 lives. The floods cost India’s financial capital more than $100 million.
Many would say that it was a disaster waiting to happen. The storm-water drainage system in Mumbai was put in place about 120 years ago by the British. It is capable of carrying only 25 mm of water per hour which was inadequate on a day when 944 mm of rain fell in the city. 102 of the 105 outfalls open directly into the sea causing seawater to rush into the drainage system during high tide. The 1990 plan to overhaul the city’s storm water drainage system had been rejected by the government on the grounds that it was “too costly”. Ironically, South Mumbai, built by the British more than a century ago, wasn’t flooded. Whereas the northern suburbs built more recently were completely submerged. Unplanned constructions in these areas and encroachment on mangroves and swamps magnified the disaster. I don’t think any more proof of government apathy and corruption is needed.
I was there in the city on that fateful day, sipping coffee in a friend’s basement office oblivious to the mayhem outside, when the phone rang urging us to leave immediately. When the four of us got out of office and into my car, we didn’t know that it would be another 20 hours before we get home. My friend captured our adventures of that night in his blog. The links are given below. It’s a great read and provides the perfect ringside view of what happened that night. For me, the night of July 26 2005 was when my beloved city turned into a city of ghosts.
Read: The Adventures of Baudolino, Blankman, Fearless Leader and Bystander July 26, 2005
Anupam Mukerji • Bangalore, India • www.mmi-india.com