Monsoon ready? A checklist for Mumbai residents and neighbourhood

As rains intensify in Mumbai, a look at BMC's preparations and what citizens can do to protect themselves and their homes.

Umbrella? Check. Raincoat for the kids? Check. All-season footwear? Check. Plastic cover for mobile phone? Check. As June approaches, Mumbaikars ready themselves for monsoon or what is popularly called “Bambai ki baarish.” They buy protective gear and extra food supplies. Some like me even pack away ‘the summer wardrobe’ and bring out ‘the monsoon wardrobe’. While we are careful about preparing for the monsoon, are our neighbourhoods equally ready? What should be on our safety checklist as we go about our lives for the next four months?

In this two-part series Citizen Matters explores the factors that cause flooding, various measures adopted by the BMC, their efficacy and information that people need in case of waterlogging and floods in their neighbourhoods. This is the second and final part.

How does the BMC get Mumbai monsoon-ready?

An official from the Storm Water Drains Department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation explains that monsoon preparation is done in three stages: pre, during and post-monsoon.

Cleaning of the six major nullahs and 10 minor nullahs is undertaken. By May 31st, 75% of desilting of major nullahs and 80% of minor nullahs is complete. 15% work of desilting the major nullahs and 10% of minor nullahs is scheduled during the monsoon. The remaining 10% cleaning is done post monsoon.

Other than this, portable pumps are installed and operated at chronic waterlogging spots. Precautionary measures such as pruning of trees are also undertaken.

Read more: Surviving the monsoon: Life in Mumbai’s coastal settlements

How does the BMC prepare for a major flood?

The Mumbai deluge (26th July 2005) taught us that preparation is key. The Disaster Management Department of the BMC (originally established in 1999) was upgraded after the historic deluge.

During peak monsoon, the possibility of floods increases when heavy rains and high tides (over 4.5 m) happen simultaneously.

“We identify the days of high tides during the monsoon months. We share these dates with all the stakeholders working in disaster and emergency management such as ward officers, the police and pumping stations. This is one of the most important precautions,” explains an official from the Disaster Management Department.

The BMC has identified 14 Emergency Support Functions (ESF) to handle various requirements in case of a monsoon-related disaster such as floods or building collapse. A lead agency heads each ESF. They have a three-flanked approach to disaster management: pre-event planning and preparedness, response during the emergency, and recovery after the disaster. 

Sr. noEmergency Support FunctionLead Agency
1CommunicationDisaster Management Unit (BMC)
2Public Safety and Law & OrderMumbai Police
3Fire FightingMumbai Fire Brigade
4Search and RescueMumbai Fire Brigade
5TransportTransport Commissioner
6Public Health and SanitationExecutive health Office (BMC)
7Resource ManagementDisaster Management Unit (BMC)
8Information ManagementPublic Relations Officer (BMC)
9Mass care, Housing and Human ServicesEducation Officer (Muinicipal Corporation)
10Relief SuppliesCollector (City)
11Energy (Power, Fuel & Gas)Brihan Mumbai electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) 
12Utility ServicesDeputy Municipal Commissioner (Special Engineering), Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai
13Public Works and InfrastructureDirector ( Engineering Services and Projects), BMC
14Oil and Hazardous MaterialsDirector, Industrial Safety and Health (DISH)
Source: BMC’s Flood Preparedness Guidelines 2023

When the India Meteorological Department predicts, ‘heavy’ to ‘extremely heavy rainfall’, the ESFs are mobilised. If there is a high tide coinciding with the prediction for a heavy downpour, ESF representatives gather at the control room of the Disaster Management Department of the BMC three hours before the high tide, and three hours after. They coordinate with their teams to mitigate the situation.

For instance, the PRO ensures that people get to know the dos and don’ts to be followed, the police find out where people may be stranded due to water logging and get them help and so on.

Read more: Photo essay: “Araam” season in Dharavi’s Kumbharwada as potters cope with monsoon

Neighbourhood safety checklist for monsoon

Citizens can hold the BMC accountable. Here is a list of things the corporation is supposed to do before the monsoon.

Trees pruned in Mumbai for monsoon preparation
The BMC prunes trees before the monsoon. They are also expected to clear the branches immediately from the roads. Pic: Shruti Gokarn
  • The tragic death of Dr. Deepak Amprapurkar by falling into an open manhole is a reminder of such hazards. Citizens can keep an eye out for such risks. If they find that a manhole is open or the manhole cover is damaged, they can contact their ward officer or call on 1916.
  • The Garden and Tree Department of the BMC undertakes pruning of trees before the monsoon. Recently the BMC had issued a notice to housing societies to get trees inside their premises pruned. But experts have also pointed out that a systematic approach is required to tree pruning, which involves assessing which trees need to be pruned and to what extent.
  • The BMC undertakes the de-silting of nullahs and gutters before the monsoon. 

Read more: Climate change: Rising sea levels ring alarm bells for Mumbai

Citizen checklist for a safer monsoon

While the agencies of the ESF take care of the city, citizens themselves can also do some things to keep themselves safe in case of flooding.

  • Keep all the emergency contacts in an easily accessible place.
  • Download the app of the Disaster Management Department of the BMC and familiarise yourself with its interface and use.
  • In the app, look up the feature called ‘Emergency Contacts’ and get to know if and where there are water-logging hotspots in your area.
  • Find out in advance the location of resources such as the police stations, hospitals in your area.
  • The corporation identifies five BMC schools that can be used as shelters in any emergency. Their names and locations are published on the BMC website and are also mentioned on the app.
  • In case of floods listen to the radio or television for updates.
  • During heavy rains, if the ceiling gets wet, shut off electricity. Stay away from power lines.

Safety guidelines for train travellers in heavy rains

The lifeline of Mumbai, local trains ferry over 7.5 million daily. Heavy rains can disrupt their running. Moreover, travelling by train during rain brings its own challenges.

Kalyan station flooded in monsoon
If the train stops due to flooding of tracks, commuters are advised to stay in the compartments till help reaches them. Pic: By Shubhanshu Shukla via CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikicommons

The CPRO of the Central Railways, Dr Swapnil Dhanraj Nila, has these suggestions for commuters:

  • People tend to assemble at exit points of stations, where they wait to shelter from the rain or stand to put on rain gear. This hinders the flow of people as more commuters keep coming. The chances of accidents increase because of the crowd. So, avoid gathering at the exit points of stations. If people have gathered at a spot, keep distance from each other and avoid panicking.
  • Stairs can become slippery during rains. So people should avoid looking into their phones while taking the stairs.
  • People have earphones or headphones on, because of which they cannot hear important safety announcements. So, when there’s heavy rainfall ensure you can hear what is happening around you.
  • Don’t believe rumours, if any. Instead rely on official rail announcements being made over the PA system.
  • In case a train stops between stations, do not try to jump out of the train. Stay in the train and wait for help to reach you.

Here’s hoping Mumbai has a safe monsoon.

Emergency contacts

Control room: 022-26591241, 022-26594176, 8657402090, and 1800228801 toll-free

National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India: 011-26701700,
Helpline Number: 011-1078

Disaster Management, Maharashtra Control Room: 022-22027990

Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Emergency Operation Centre (Disaster Management Unit): 1916, 022-22694725, 022-22694727, 022-22704403

Important websites

BMC’s flood preparedness guidelines.
Disaster Management Department of the BMC

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