The newly included 16 wards of the Indore municipal limits have no sewerage system to carry the waste its burgeoning population produces every day, in what many see as a mockery of the Central government’s much-vaunted Clean India campaign. The wards spread over a sprawling 145 square kilometres and is home to 2.31 lakh people.
The inclusion of the 16 new wards (comprising 29 villages) appears only to have added to the woes of the cash-strapped Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC), as 30% of the 69 wards originally under its wing are already in dire need of a proper sewerage system. The areas devoid of sewers include city slums that have ‘kuchha’ (temporary) drains that are burdened with waste generated by 28% of the total population of 21.95 lakh in those wards.
Nonetheless, mayor Malini Gaud says, “Financial constraints do exist, but sewerage is our priority.”
The budgetary provision in the current fiscal for installation and repair of sewage lines in the original 69 wards is Rs 228 crore, less than 11% of the total Rs 2,132-crore budget, while Rs 20 crore has been allocated to the new wards — but it remains unclear when the work will begin.
The origins of Indore’s bout with drainage problems go back decades as the civic body was forced to rely on drains laid by the erstwhile princely state of Holkars for lack of funds. Now, due to the absence of records of the original sewers, the IMC is forced to rely on sanitary inspectors to track faults in the 86-year-old system that runs beneath the old localities of the city today.
A month back, Vijay Nagar municipal zone undertook a surface-level survey after complaints of choked drains surfaced in its wards and found that the drains were laid against the gradient, impeding flow of waste water, a clear sign of poor planning and construction.
Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes in his Indore town-planning report of 1918 too had revealed a similar problem. “Drains in Rambag are against the gradient. The (sewer) pipe-bends in Chhipa Bakhal are too many to allow natural flow,” he had remarked.
The MP Housing Board developed the Sukhaliya locality 25 years back and laid two-foot long sewer pipes that were joined together. “The joints impede waste water’s natural flow,” said a senior official of the Sukhaliya zone wishing anonymity.
Maintenance, or lack thereof, too plays a role in the spilling over of inundated drains. The sewers in Mahalaxmi Nagar, Tulsi Nagar and Chikitsak Nagar join the Tulsi Nagar nullah, but the openings lie buried under silt and muck that have accumulated over the years. “Since the sewerage has no outlet, it flows back into locality drains from where it spills onto roads,” a Vijay Nagar zone engineer said, wishing anonymity.
“Waste water flows on roads to join the nearest water source as there are no sewers,” Nandbag Colony resident Madan Temre said. Similar problems are faced by people living in 22 colonies in Nandbag Colony, Rakhi Nagar and Maheshwari Nagar (ward no 16).
In Jalla Colony of Khajrana district, manholes are located inside houses, while in other localities they are located on ‘kuchha’ roads that are rendered inaccessible during rains, buried beneath the mud.
Narrow sewers in areas like Pancham ki Phel overflow or even burst during rains and are replaced only when needed.
AT WIT’S END
In addition to the construction and maintenance mess, the IMC’s problems are exacerbated in colonies along the Bypass that rely solely on septic tanks. Once the tanks are filled to the brim, which they will eventually, the civic body lacks a contingency plan to drain the waste.
In areas like Loharpatti, chemicals used by its resident welders corrode and damage existing drainage lines, while surface drains in old areas such as Sarafa Cloth Market are often blocked by encroachers.
The task at hand for the Indore civic body is monumental, and to get a clearer picture of the problem, it is necessary to delve deeper into the system in place today.