Residents of BS Makhta of Begumpet area in Hyderabad live with unbearable stench. Sewage water seeps on to the roads regularly, as the drains get clogged almost every week. The vendors force themselves to sell their vegetables despite the stink, but customers hardly come by…
Month after month for the last three years, they have been complaining to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board officials - but all they’ve been getting are temporary fixes. The situation goes back to square one within days, and they go back to complaining - and hoping that someday, the officials will come up with a permanent solution to their misery.
But officials, it seems, have their own problems.
“The pipelines were set up nearly two decades back. We have done remodeling of sewer lines but that is not the permanent solution. This is not the case in Makhta alone, but the whole city,” says Jitendra Kumar, spokesperson of Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB).
The only permanent solution, he says, is to replace all the sewage pipelines. “For that, the water board needs nearly Rs 6000 crore. If the board gets the funds from the government, then we can resolve these issues permanently,” he adds.
Why are drains clogged?
For the residents though, who are struggling with the drainage every other week, this doesn’t seem like a solution at all.
Chandran, a vegetable vendor from Begumpet, says, “People are struggling to walk on this road, and we are sitting here for past four hours. The road is filled with drain water, but we come here every week. We do not have any other choice but to sit here and sell vegetable on the market day.”
But why do the drains get clogged so often?
General Manager of HMWSSB for Begumpet area, M Prabhu, says it’s the residents who dump the garbage in the drains, leading to clogs.
“The main problem in Makhta is that residents throw garbage into the sewers instead of disposing it through the GHMC garbage trucks, due to which the sewer lines get clogged. The pipeline often gets choked because of this,” he says.
Other than food waste, common things they take out from sewer lines include plastic covers and sanitary napkins, Prabhu says.
“It becomes hard for workers to clean it. We have informed the residents not to throw all these non-biodegradable material, however, they never follow our instructions,” he adds.
Does water board use manual scavengers?
Meanwhile, residents of BS Makhta say that every time they do complain to the officials, one of the ‘temporary solutions’ they come up with is manual scavenging.
Yaseen, a resident of BS Makhta says, “Several times, the workers who come to clean the manholes, had to go inside it to clean it.”
However, HMWSSB has denied the allegations, saying no manual scavenging has been happening in the city under the water board.
“No manual scavenging is being practiced in any part of the city under HMWSSB,” Prabhu claims.
“For several years, the water board has been using AirTech machines to suck the filth from the manholes. We also use filth grabber since last year - it’s a long rod attached to a bucket shaped equipment. It helps the workers clean the manholes from outside,” he adds.
Although manual scavenging is banned in India, a recent study conducted by Basthi Vikas Manch suggests that there are at least 10,000 manual scavengers in the city.
The study also revealed that nearly 50,000 people are employed by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) as Solid Waste Management (SWM) workers.
Saraswathi, who works with the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) in Hyderabad, has earlier told TNM that, HMWSSB used to play a major role in employing manual scavengers.
However, the HMWSSB in January has put up a restriction on manual scavengers to clean a sewer or a drain, but she said that the contractors often violate the rule.