Lack of foresight adds to the woes

worn-out pipeline

Lack of foresight  adds to the woes

The appalling condition of Church Street – when sewage water had accumulated in pockets across the road last week – has raised concerns among citizens about the maintenance of Bangalore’s sanitary piping system. 

The current system, comprising of a 3,500 kilometre-long framework of stoneware and RCC hume pipes constructed in phases over the last several decades, is monitored by a team of BWSSB officials who look out for stretches that require repair or replacement.

 But implementing these decisions is easier said than done; unlike tarring a road or trimming a tree, relaying or repairing a pipe is a time-consuming and tedious process.

“If we receive a complaint or our officials find areas where repair or replacement is needed, we take up the necessary projects. In fact, recently, repair has taken place in areas around Richmond Road, Domlur and RT Nagar. Right now, there is work being undertaken in Koramangala,” explains Gaurav Gupta, chairman of the BWSSB.

He’s quick to add, though, that it isn’t as simple as identifying a weak spot and automatically fixing it. “Replacement or rehabilitation sometimes requires a great amount of work and inconvenience to citizens,” he elaborates. “Because of that, we take it up only when absolutely necessary.”

Not surprisingly, citizens have mixed feelings with regard to the matter of pipe replacement or repair. On the one hand, many have experienced problems of water-logging, especially in central portions of the City. On the other, most harbour a healthy scepticism of any project that requires roads to be dug up and traffic to be disrupted.

 “It’s a troubling issue because if sanitary pipes aren’t maintained well, water-logging could create a serious health hazard. Apart from the hygiene factor, stagnant water provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes — a scary thought, now that dengue cases are on the rise,” says Mallika, a resident of Vivek Nagar.

“On the other hand, most motorists dread the thought of roads being dug up, even if it’s only to relay a pipe. These projects tend to be delayed and the last thing one needs is additional travel time,” she adds.

Another concern is that given the fast-expanding population, Bangalore’s sewage system might soon need a complete overhaul rather than a bit of patching up. “The population density and mushrooming housing complexes across various neighbourhoods in Bangalore have to be addressed,” says Santhosh Prakash, a professional. “A sewage system built decades ago might not be able to cope with this increase. I understand that it’s a complicated process, but it isn’t one that can be ignored either.”

It isn’t. The BWSSB does have plans for expansion, which are being addressed in a staggered manner. “The need for expansion is being taken up in phases. We can’t dig up the entire City in one go,” says Gaurav. “It requires a lot of resources and painstaking work. Work in the first phase was completed between 2004 and 2010 and the second stage is currently underway.”

Another problem that presents itself is in terms of coordination. “The issue is that when it comes to repairing a portion of a piping system, a certain level of collaboration is required. The road has to be cordoned off and for that, the BWSSB can’t act alone — help is needed from other governing bodies.

The sad truth is that most authorities have a very bureaucratic attitude towards this, which is why projects are often delayed” says Beena, an advocate. “If channels of communication were smoother, citizens would be all for projects such as this. It is the most basic requirement.”

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