Rain, rain come another day

Though the monsoon brings respite from the blistering heat, Delhiites have to pay the price in the form of puddles, clogged drains, waterlogged roads and huge traffic snarls.

The first spell of pre-monsoon showers that hit the capital in the past week was no exception as it exposed the lack of preparedness to deal with the much-awaited rainy season – causing waterlogged roads especially near flyovers, leading to traffic jams.
Who to blame for the mess? It’s the multiplicity of agencies, pure and simple.

The explanation even struck a chord with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who said that multiplicity of agencies hampers desilting of drains, and other related work during the monsoon season. “It even gets difficult for an MLA to find out which agency to approach to get the drains cleaned,” Sisodia said while presenting the Aam Aadmi Party’s maiden Delhi Budget for 2015-16.

“So the government wants to put an end to this sort of system which has been continuing since forever. We have proposed to set up a new agency ‘Delhi Urban Development Agency’ in each revenue district to execute the work recommended by the citizens,” he said.

But people don’t understand these technicalities and vent their anger on the municipal corporations. “Every year water gets clogged here causing huge traffic snarls. We don’t understand why the civic agency doesn’t do something about it. Why can’t the government direct the municipality to make sure the drain is cleaned before the start of the rainy season?” says Ramesh Vyas, a shop owner near Zakhira flyover.

The municipal corporations, however, say that drains next to roads which are 60 feet or wider roads don’t come under their jurisdiction.  “They are with the city government’s Public Works Department (PWD). But we still clean them in public interest,” says Ravinder Gupta, Mayor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, citing the example of Zakhira flyover.

“When it rained on Monday the road near the flyover was filled with water and we asked our engineers to clean it up so that people don’t have to face inconvenience,” Gupta adds. Given the condition of the city during the monsoon, one has to be indoors to enjoy the rains.

“I don’t like to step out of the house when it rains as the city gets covered in a pool of water. The puddles take away the fun of the rainy season,” says Tanya Kapoor, a private firm employee. “It gets so messy that sometimes I even avoid going to office.”

The civic agencies, however, indulge in a blame game. “The situation of waterlogging in the city is due to the Delhi government’s ill-preparedness as the drains falling under the corporations are desilted and that too well before the monsoon season. But most of the bigger drains which belong to PWD or Irrigation and Flood Control are choked,” says Gupta.

The municipal corporations say that as the smaller drain flow into the bigger ones, this effects the drainage everywhere – water flows on to the roads. “We take the flak for the city government’s clogged drains,” adds Gupta.

The previous city government had taken over the drains along 60-feet wide roads from the civic agencies. Asked whether the civic agency will clean drains if asked by the city government, North Delhi Mayor tells Deccan Herald, “We don’t mind cleaning up the drains as we are doing it now also. But it will be better if we were given these drains back with additional funds for cleaning up purposes.”

There is also the issue of the carrying capacity of the drains, even when they are desilted.  After heavy rains, it often takes time for the water to be drained away from the road.

Another problem is the floating waste – like plastic, paper and fallen leaves – that blocks water from flowing smoothly through the grating on the roadside drains. This has to be cleared manually.

“Sending a person in rain to do such a job is supposed to take time which people fail to understand,” says an official with Department of Environment Management Service of a corporation.

But people have a different take on it. “This is why the civic agency should be more careful in carrying out a cleanliness drive before the onset of monsoon,” says Parmod Singh, a government official. “There is a stretch in my area where waterlogging is a common problem but nobody bothers to fix it,” he adds.

Huge traffic jams

Traffic snarls affects thousands when it pours. “Every monsoon the ITO bridge sees huge traffic jams due to clogged streets. The traffic moves at a snail’s pace making it difficult for office goers to reach their destinations on time,” says Naresh Luthra, an east Delhi resident.

“The civic agencies are never prepared to tackle the situation in advance. They wait till the pre-monsoon showers hit the city and then they start cleaning the drains and take up other related work,” he adds.

The slackness is evident. The East Delhi Municipal Corporation directed its officials to get drains free of encroachments only after the advent of the pre-monsoon showers.
But it claimed to have completed 81 per cent of the de-silting work as of May 31, in accordance with a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order. It removed 38,560 metric tonnes of silt from October 2014 onwards.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation claimed to have completed 96 per cent of its desilting work by May 31, removing  8,215 tonnes of silt from the 182 drains in its area from October 1, 2014 onwards.

Also, the civic agencies have been issuing challans for throwing garbage into drains, as per NGT orders. The East Corporation has issued 118 challans and the North civic agency challaned over 80 defaulters in the past week.

MCD inspections

The civic agencies are on an overdrive of inspections now to check the monsoon preparedness. The North Corporation has geared up its control room to take waterlogging complaints during the rainy session.

“The control rooms which will function 24x7 in three shifts to receive complaints from citizens regarding waterlogging, falling of trees or collapse of buildings during rains,” says North Delhi Mayor. “The control rooms are equipped with portable pump sets to pump out water in case of waterlogging in the areas under the civic agency. The staff from maintenance, horticulture, environment management services are deputed in the control rooms for immediate action,” he adds.

People can reach the central control room on 23212700, 23220010, 23220016, 23220037 and the Mayor’s helpline on 96430-96430.

The civic agencies are also taking steps for the prevention of vector-borne diseases. Officials have been directed to avoid stagnation of water in waste or disposable plastic material during the rainy season.  The engineering departments of all the agencies have been asked to make provision of lids and repair of overhead tanks in government office complexes and residential colonies.

Besides, the government hospitals have been asked to ensure availability of emergency beds, and deploy nodal officers to ensure premises free of mosquito-breeding. Awareness programmes are being run by the civic agencies on preventive measure against dengue, malaria and chikungunya.

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