The second day of the workshop commenced with the fourth session on Flood management initiatives by the government, that was opened by the Chief of Disaster Management Department of the BMC – Mr. Mahesh Narvekar. He share intiaitves such as the ArcGIS based decision support platform for disaster management, providing early warning through apps supported by their Automated Weather Stations and the training they provide free of charge for citizens to become first responders. He shared his concern for critical infrastructure, especially power supply to hospitals, which became a crucial requirement during the Covid-19 crisis. This was followed by a presentation from the Storm Water Drainage Department which is primarily tasked with management of surface run-off. However, other challenges such as encroachments, sewage management and dealing with the uncertainties of climate change. They also presented the technicalities of desilting. Their vision for 2030 – groundwater recharge wells, percolation pits, underground discharge channels and the sponge city concept. The next presentation was from the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority focusing on the Mithi River Development and Protection Authority (MRDPA). The project has focused on increasing the carrying capacity of the Mithi River since 2005.

The afternoon session was in my view one of the most interesting formats as it was on Citizen and city stories but included community members, civil society representatives who were invited to share their perspectives. It was heartening to see vulnerable citizens being given a platform to voice their stories. A representative from YUVA shared the stories of victims of the landslide in Chembur. Rescues, relief operations, rehabilitation and resettlement were major topics that were presented. It was emphasized that eviction is not the solution and instead questioned exploring options of green-grey hybrid solutions. Vulnerable residents living in informal settlements presented their own account of rehabilitations and resettlement between different houses over the years. They shared their concerns about not having a permanent safe settlement and challenges with temporary resettlement to government schools is not the solution. They face these challenges every year, every monsoon. Due to many contributions in Marathi, I could not follow the entire discussion. Discussions also called for a change in perspective and “mindset” in viewing vulnerable settlements as “encroachments” and instead look at them not as the problem (which might lead to a conflict mode) but as a part of the solution. This was further supported and highlighted the need for a change in language used to address the problem. For example, shifting from urban slums to “urban vernacular” as a start to changing mindsets and how we think about the most vulnerable.

The last and final session of the workshop on Financing flood mitigation interventions and measures. The session invited experts from the C40 Cities Network and Asian Development Bank for sharing best practices from other cities. Different criteria, mechanisms and funding options for measures were exchanged. The session also included an interactive group activity for funding of flood risk management initiatives in Mumbai.

Closing ceremony of the Flood Risk in Mumbai workshop

The workshop was drawn to an end with a closing ceremony and final keynotes by Chief Secretary of Government of Maharashtra Shri Ajoy Mehta and former BMC Commissioner Shri Jairaj Phatak. Mr. Phatak started out with calling urban floods a “natural disaster” and the challenge of uncertainty in prediction. He shared that Mumbai would be able to handle upto 250 mm rainfall in a day but beyond that would be difficult – in comparison to the 2005 floods which saw over 900mm of rainfall in a day. The framing of flooding was seen as a cause of excess rainfall. He underlined the importance of flooding through the budget allocation. Mr. Mehta, on the contrary, opened with his view of flooding as a “man-made disaster” which requires a “man-made” solution. He highlighted the inequality in impacts between the rich and the poor and underlined the importance of recognizing that the poor are most impacted. Main dimensions of urban flooding in his view were to see it as a “planning disaster” as well as “execution disaster”, calling for the two to be in sync.

He concluded his input with a closing final thought that urban flooding does not have a single solution and “flood control is a fundamentally joint and team effort, not a single effort”. I found it a fitting statement to take home for this multi-stakeholder workshop with participants from across different sectors.

Recordings of the sessions can be accessed here.