The Karnataka High Court was hearing a PIL related to deaths owing to people falling into drains during heavy rain.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Thursday told the Karnataka High Court that it had stopped covering stormwater drains (SWDs) with concrete slabs, based on a Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) direction, reports said. 

The HC Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice SR Krishna Kumar, was hearing a PIL related to deaths owing to people falling into drains during heavy rain.

The KSPCB direction in turn, was based on the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) July 2018 directions in a case related to such drains in Haryana, reported The Hindu.

The BBMP also said that it had not taken any expert view on the issue and only went by the KSPCB directions. But later, the BBMP got technical advise from M Inayathulla, a professor of Visvesvaraya College of Engineering, Civil Engineering Department (PG-Water Resources Engineering).

Inayathulla had opined that covering drains would make it susceptible to choking and accumulation of silt, leading to flooding, after he visited certain SWDs.

This submission was made by BS Prahallad, BBMP’s chief engineer, SWD, in an affidavit. The Times of India reported that the submission mentioned an experience in Peenya Industrial Area where in one instance, slabs had to be broken to clear the silt.

The Hindu quoted the expert view from Inayathulla as stating that illegal sewage outlets are harder to detect in covered drains, and open SWDs help in aeration of sewage and increases the self-cleaning capacity of drains.

In an earlier hearing, it was reported the court was told that chain link fencing done by the BBMP was not sufficient to prevent people falling into SWDs. According to data maintained by BBMP itself, just 230.68 kilometre length of SWDs of the total length of 842 km has been fenced and there is a proposal to fence only another 125.38 km by the end of 2021.