More than 24,000 municipal workers spilled onto Chennai’s scummy streets and byways on Wednesday to clear heaps of garbage and muck in a bid to prevent the outbreak of diseases as residents began returning to their homes following days of rain and devastating floods.
The civic body brought in 4,000 workers from other districts promising higher pay to deal with the formidable task of cleaning up the southern city hit by its worst deluge in over a 100 years.
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the floods a national calamity and proposed measures, including a moratorium on home and vehicle loans, to enable affected families rebuild their lives.
“If it does not rain (heavily like those days) Chennai should be normal in a week’s time,” municipal commissioner Vikram Kapoor told Hindustan Times.
Work was going on round the clock, he said, but admitted complaints were pouring in from parts of the city battered by the inundation.
The receding floodwaters have left behind piles of waste and overpowering stench that the army of civic workers is fighting.
Pumps, cranes and earthmoving equipment have been pressed into service in many areas with 130 trucks deployed to cart away the garbage to the city’s outskirts.
With only light rain predicted for the day and almost two dry days in succession, water has receded in many areas, allowing people to return to their homes and begin cleaning up.
Most of the roads are usable but potholes and craters are being repaired, Kapoor said.
“But it will take time and Chennaites understand this. That work is being done is there for anyone to see,” he said.
Corporation officials are also distributing bleaching powder in areas where waste is being removed.
The city generates between 4,500 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes of garbage on a normal day. But after the floods, about 100,000 tonnes of refuse has piled up of which nearly 90% is plastic waste, said officials.