Mumbai needs nodal body to improve civic amenities

Mumbai, August 5:

The complete collapse of infrastructure during the floods in Mumbai has triggered a demand for a single nodal authority who will coordinate with various civic agencies. Experts say the multiplicity of civic agencies in the mega-city of 15 million people has resulted in lack of efficiency and coordination. “Post-floods, it has become very clear that there should be a single point authority who is totally responsible for this city,” said Narinder Nayar, chairman of the NGO Bombay First. “There should be someone like a mayor in New York or London who will be completely responsible and accountable to all the developmental and infrastructure issues of the city,” Nayar said. Some 450 people across Mumbai lost their lives in the partly natural, partly man-made disaster that shook the city last month. Businesses suffered an estimated loss of Rs 20 billion ($460 million) due to the unprecedented downpour that stared July 26, triggering floods. “Today, we have a situation where four agencies are responsible for repairing and maintenance of roads in Mumbai and despite this the roads in the city are horrible. There is no accountability on the part of the civic agencies at all,” said Nayar. Bombay First had submitted a report to the Maharashtra government in 2003 on transforming the crowded and infrastructure-deficient city into a world-class mega-city like Shanghai over the next 10 years. Nayar said the report had demanded the creation of a single nodal agency for addressing all development related issues. Currently, the city is managed by over half a dozen agencies that include Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, Public Works Department, and Maharashtra State Road Development Corp.

“What we saw in the last few days is just the tip of the iceberg. The crisis caused by

the floods is going to come again and again,” said Vaijayanti Pandit, an infrastructure expert with Indian Merchants’ Chamber. “This won’t happen again because of rains but due to glaring abuse of the city’s infrastructure and inefficiency on the part of the civic agencies. Who is accountable for the city?” asked Pandit. “Over 80 percent of the city’s municipal revenues go into paying staff salaries. Someone has to be there to look into these issues and act as a watchdog. This is completely missing now.” All local civic agencies, especially Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), have come under sharp criticism by both the media and the average Mumbaikar as torrential rains battered the city creating an unprecedented human crisis. The inept handling of the deluge forced residents in many parts of the city to come out on the streets to protest against the agencies. The BMC is reportedly looking for a public relations agency for an image makeover. “Various agencies that are there now will have to continue to function even after the creation of a single authority but there will be complete accountability in their functions,” said Nayar.