There has been a little bit of a diplomatic incident in Mumbai with regards to a warning posted on the U.S. Consulate’s website that warns Americans walking around the city to be careful not to drop down manholes into the sewer:
Dear American citizens:
We bring this warden message to your attention so you can carefully consider the information it contains. Please pass along the information below to the American citizens in your area or put this information on your notice boards for dissemination. Thank you for your cooperation…
The monsoon has arrived in western India, and Mumbai is experiencing the season’s storms. With these come the possibility of heavy flooding. Heavy rains and associated winds can, at times, have the same intensity as a tropical storm. The rains during monsoon are significant and, in July 2005, led to heavy loss of life. You should follow common sense precautions, avoiding low-lying areas that appear to be flooded. Also be extremely cautious when driving or walking during flood periods. To ease flooding in Mumbai, Bombay Municipal Corporation workers will open manhole covers on roads, and there may be no markers. Tree branches upright on streets sometimes serve as caution signals. In reduced visibility conditions, you could drive into one of these open manholes. You should also pay attention when walking, since sidewalks are non-existent in some areas or used for other purposes in most parts of the city. It’s possible that you could inadvertently step into an open manhole. [Link]
SM commenters have previously discussed the “manhole problem” on this thread. However, the pride of some officials was hurt over the above statement.
Mumbai city officials are upset by an American warning about the risks of falling into manholes in India’s commercial capital during the monsoon season… The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation rejected the statement, and said it had e-mailed the U.S. consulate on Wednesday stating it had cast the city in a bad light.
Jairaj Phatak, the municipal commissioner, estimates that 10 people or fewer have died in such a manner in recent years. [Link]
I like the “10 people or fewer” comment because it speaks to the different thresholds applied to a public safety problem in the U.S. and India. Maybe instead of denying the problem the officials should instead launch a PR campaign by highlighting that Indian manholes are used all over the U.S. Something like “India: Securing American holes since 19##.”