According to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation officials, desilting work is expected to be completed by the first week of June.

Hyds municipal body begins desilting drains ahead of rains but too little too late
news Civic Issues Monday, May 27, 2019 - 09:59

In 2017, Hyderabad’s IT-hub area, Gachibowli, saw its roads flooded and required people to be rescued from their cars piled up at Biodiversity junction. When officials closed off the road and dug up the flooded storm water drains or nalas, they were shocked to find massive amounts of plastic and polythene, which clogged the drains. Two years later, the situation is no different.

Now, with less than a few weeks left for the rain, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is on a marathon effort to desilt all storm water drains in the city.

The storm water drains in the city are capable of handling 2 centimetres of rainfall per hour. According to the GHMC, however, these drains are already filled with sewage from the city and thus cannot fully accommodate the storm water. Removing the silt or dirt carried by running water is crucial to ensure the sewage system does not get silted up and cause flooding.

Efforts to prevent clogging futile: Officials

According to Musharraf Ali Faruqui IAS, GHMC Zonal Commissioner of Khairatabad, “In many areas of the city, people are dumping construction debris like construction blocks, granite and marble stones, and even a lot of furniture.”

Mohammad Ziauddin, Chief Engineer of GHMC, tells TNM several attempts by the GHMC to make sure the nalas do not get flooded have fallen through. “To prevent people from throwing garbage in the nalas, we have put up fences near open nalas to block the access to anyone. But we found that many people are cutting these fences and getting through them anyway,” he said.

Ziauddin also cited the example of an area near Patny in Secunderabad. “Every day, we found heaps of thermocol floating in the nala, and every day we would remove it only to find some more thermocol the very next day,” he said.

Not only does the water overflow on to the roads during the rains, but these drains have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and also are often overflowing with plastic and other garbage. Several low-lying areas of the city are exposed to this water, especially when the rains begin.

GHMC ambitious but is it enough?

In 2017, 13 engineers and 18 contractors working with GHMC were arrested for their involvement in the desilting scam for submitting fake bills and fake registration numbers of vehicles, which were supposed to transport the extracted silt to the dumping ground.

“Because of this scam, it has been tough to get the workers and contractors to start the tendering process for the desilting work,” said Ziauddin. “They don’t want to take up the work because it is not profitable for them and I have asked the government to raise the payment for this work.”

He said that it required a lot of pleading and convincing to start the work in April after they refused to start the work, demanding higher pay.

The GHMC Zonal Commissioner of Khairatabad said the desilting work is expected to be completed by the first week of June and will not cause any hindrance to the city when the monsoon arrives.

However, activists are not as optimistic about the effectiveness of the work being carried out. “This is a persistent problem faced by the city every year and a permanent solution must be found. These drains were built by the Nizam several years ago and it needs total renovation and repairs” said Padmanabha Reddy, Secretary of Forum for Good Governance, a social service organisation focussing on government accountability.

“They (GHMC) spend thousands of crores for flyovers but the basic duty of keeping the storm  water drain clean for the rainy season is not being taken care of,” he said. He also claimed that the GHMC engages in a lot of malpractice and corruption, which has hindered the work.

“These nalas are supposed to be used to drain the excess rainwater, but is being used as drainage instead,” said Veda Kumar, a former civil engineer and urban planner as well as the Chairman of Forum For A Better Hyderabad. “We need a masterplan for underground drainage system of Hyderabad because the previous system, which was built by the Nizam, has been totally converted into a sewerage system and cannot hold the rainwater we receive now; it is overloaded” he explained.

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