Mar 10, 2008

Is Mumbai Really That Filthy?



The city's civic officials are mighty offended by the Forbes magazine survey that lists Mumbai as the seventh dirtiest city in the world.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) says the survey took into consideration only the viewpoints of the expatriate population of the city and not the common man's. Most people questioned in the survey, say the civic officials, were foreigners employed in the city’s various embassies.

Forbes evaluated Mumbai's degree of cleanliness taking into account 29 civic criteria such as the contamination levels of the water supply, air pollution levels, efficacy of the waste collection system, etc.

Additional municipal commissioner R A Rajeev says, "It is unfair to compare Mumbai according to expatriate standards and the study cannot be used to blame the civic body. In 2003, Forbes had conducted a similar survey with almost identical results. Does this mean there has been no development since then, despite all our projects?"

Here's what the survey found.

  • You cannot drink tap water directly — it needs to be either boiled or filtered. The water is filthy and not potable.
    The water is treated at plants in Bhandup and Panjarapur near Thane to make it potable before it reaches homes. Every month, BMC tests nearly 2,600 water samples to check contamination levels. If the levels are high, they take immediate action. Almost 1.60 crore Mumbaikars, including a floating population of 30 lakh, drinks tap water without boiling or filtering it. So far, not single case has been registered of a person falling ill as a result of drinking tap water.

  • The city is infested with stray dogs and insects that spread diseases and are dangerous.
    According to BMC's latest survey, there are 79,000 strays dogs in the city. The civic corporation has purchased 25 acres of land to construct dog pounds. To mitigate the danger that stray dogs pose, a sterilisation project, undertaken with the help of NGOs, is in full swing. Cases of stray dogs biting citizens are very rare.


  • Infectious diseases are widely spread among citizens and the population of HIV+ citizens is more than that of foreign cities. This makes dwelling in the city for long periods of time dangerous to one's health. It is also harmful to the environment.

  • Hospital services are satisfactory, but most hospitals are located in the island city while the suburbs lack specialised facilities.

  • The garbage collection system is ineffective, and garbage piles are a frequent sight on city roads. However, South Mumbai is comparatively cleaner.

  • Fifty per cent of city's waste is dumped into the sea without undergoing any sort of treatment. This poses an environmental hazard.