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Keeping the city smooth & clean is not child’s play: Ajoy Mehta

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
By Priyanka Bhatt

The civic body of any city always stays in focus, scrutinised by a population of millions each day on every decision taken. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is no different. Keeping the city clean and functioning each day is not child's play, and it takes being one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to running the city at its optimum level. In an exclusive  interview with ADC, BMC chief Ajoy Mehta talks about various issues that have been in limelight for a while now. He sheds light on the solutions BMC is looking for to reduce water scarcity, making rain water harvesting compulsory and the much-debated infusion of an experienced professional from outside the civil cadre as his man Friday Ram Dotonde to perk up functioning of BMC a notch up

Water crisis with a shortage of around 15% is making the situation worrisome for citizens and authorities alike. Mehta explains how BMC is trying to cope with such a situation, “The water deficit has to be uniformly distributed and has to be fair. The deficit is also an opportunity to plug in all your leakages so that wastage is stopped. There has to be fairness, so no one citizen faces a higher cut than the other and that there has to be something done about leakages,” he said.

There have been complaints from places that people in higher regions face scarcity of water because of topography issues. Mehta tells that such issues have to be managed locally, “We have told our officials that wherever there is a topography issue and the ground levels are higher, you must manage the network locally in a manner that they get their share.

“So issues like timing, valve openings, cross connections etc. can be resolved through proper coordination so that everyone gets their share,” he said. He added that this is an ongoing process and “the complaints keep coming and we address them as they come.” He assures that the issues will be tackled soon.

In the recent past, there has been a raging debate on diverting water from Koyna Dam in Satara to the city. To this, Mehta says that it is an issue of the state government but, “We are looking at how we can solve this problem. Fifty per cent of Mumbai's waste is going untreated into the sea. We are now planning to set up sewerage treatment plants at four to five locations across the city which will help to treat nearly 1500-2000 mld water to grey water levels which is good enough for activities like gardening, cleaning and washing,” he explained.

The Tamil Nadu government has adopted the system of setting up desalination plants. When asked if BMC has considered having desalination plants to bring improvement in condition of water problem, Mehta emphasised on the process of recycling the sewerage water, “desalination is on the plans.

But recycling water is what we are currently focusing on. That itself is 50% of the supply. It is there and you don't have to do anything extra. The water also needs to be treated because you cannot keep throwing water in the sea and keep destroying it. So, recycling water is doable. But the idea of desalination plants is also there on the cards,” he said.

According to Mehta there are three main ways to solve the issue of water crisis. “The first one is the option of increasing the capacity of reservoirs that supply water to Mumbai, which we are already working on,” he said. He elaborated that the second option is to recycle the water by setting up sewerage treatment plants across the city and “The third option is desalination. Desalination has a cost which is huge because we are making sea water worthy for consumption for the city,” he said. But to consider desalination, or any other option, the civic chief said that they work on the cost analysis. “We do a cost benefit analysis of all the options, and whichever is the most efficient, we consider that option to be the best,” Mehta tells us.

Recently there was a thought put forth by Mumbai Mayor Snehal Ambekar on bringing the Air Water Generation technology to Mumbai. Many countries like the US, Australia and Israel have adopted the system of adopting Air Water Generators. According to Mehta this is a localised option and “as a city we have to look at larger issues. But just like desalination we can look at this suggestion too,” he said. There is also rain water harvesting that has been made compulsory, but is not being implemented everywhere. “There is already a strict rule for new buildings to get rain water harvest system. The building proposal department as well as the ward officers have to ensure that the implementation is being done correctly,” he said.

To a query over potholes and bad quality of  roads, and the city Rotterdam in Netherlands making roads out of recycled plastic, Mehta responds, “Various cities use different methods depending on what is available vis-a-vis material and technology available to them. We need to see quality control is in check. Rather than getting into various technology issues which we must, we are looking into improving the quality of what we have,” he further elaborates, “Disposal of plastic is a problem in Mumbai. We have already made one road in Dadar with recycled plastic. But, to convert the entire city, we need that kind of capacity. It becomes difficult if there is only one contractor doing it. There has to be broad based technology to make those changes.”
Speaking of adopting international standards in Indian administration, the US brings professionals from outside the civil cadre with vast expertise and knowledge to civil services to perk up the functioning of a government organisation.

Mehta has initiated a similar process of this system. Does he think the same is working for BMC to work to its maximum potential and ease out the pressure? “Every field like engineering, medicine etc requires expertise. Here in the corporation what we do is bring in the consultants. Like in the case of coastal road, we have asked for international consultants for their opinion. You always need technology and wider experience to reach maximum potential,” he explained.

When asked about the much anticipated coastal road project and how necessary it is, he promptly replied, “It is a north-south link of the city. We have two highways, two railway lines and yet there is a dire need for a fifth alternative for commuting. The recent derailment on the western line made travelling really difficult for the citizens when it took five hours to move from the suburbs to town,” he said.

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