The local municipal corporation has been found wanting when it comes to keeping the city clean. What to talk of other localities, cleanliness even in the vicinity of the world-famous Golden Temple leaves much to be desired.
Filth can be seen lying all around in the narrow streets or bazaars around the shrine and the MC safai workers are rarely seen. Most of the drains in the bazaars are choked and emit a foul smell as these are rarely cleaned.
Various roads leading to the shrine seem to get narrower with encroachers having a field day. The MC officials have rarely made an effort to remove encroachments.
HT took a round of the area and spoke to shopkeepers, residents and the SGPC officials about what the MC had done for the area in the past five years.
Roads leading to the shrine
The only hassle-free drive to the vicinity of the shrine is the elevated road that takes a visitor to the top of the Saragarhi parking near Dharam Singh market, 300 metres from the Golden Temple. Those coming by car or taxi use the route.
However, for those pilgrims who come by bus, truck or tractor-trolley, which are not permitted in the walled city, the parking place for these vehicles is near Burj Akali Phoola Singh, from where they can either walk down to the shrine or hire a cycle rickshaw or an auto-rickshaw.
The ride on a rickshaw or an auto-rickshaw is not easy as the MC has not taken care of the road below the elevated road from Sherawala Gate to Dharam Singh market. It is a bumpy ride with potholes dotting the road. Shopkeepers who have their businesses around the shrine and residents living in certain areas around the inter-bus terminal also use this stretch, often using two-wheelers.
Not only is the condition of the road pathetic, trucks often remain parked on this stretch as a number of transport companies have their offices on the road. The MC has made no effort in the past five years to move the trucks out of this area to Jahajgarh area earmarked for the transport nagar.
One does heave a sigh of relief on reaching the Dharam Singh market after seeing that the road leading to the shrine is in good condition and quite wide. But the numerous 'rehris' parked on the roadside, especially up to the Jallainwala Bagh, hinder the movement of even rickshaws, what to speak of cars and taxis. Temporary shops have come up outside Dharam Singh market and offloading of goods from vehicles is a common sight in the narrow Katra Ahluwalia.
The MC rarely acts to remove these encroachments, which has prompted shopkeepers in Bazaar Pappara, Brahambuta Market and other areas to display their goods on the road outside their shops.
An alternative route for vehicles had been planned from Ghee Mandi Chowk to the Jallainwala Bagh, which involved widening of this stretch. However, this project has not been executed even though compensation to some of the owners of properties on this route had been distributed.
Choked drains and heaps of filth
Sitting in his shop at Bazaar Mai Sewan, Narinderpal Singh points to the drain flowing below his shop, which emits a foul smell and is choked with polythene bags, which have been banned but are still in use in the city. "I sit at the rear of my shop to avoid the stench from the drain. Once in a while an MC 'safai' worker comes to clean the drain and whenever it rains, the drain overflows on to the road," says Narinderpal.
He says heaps of filth are lifted at around noon. "For an area just in the vicinity of the shrine, a 'safai' worker should remain stationed throughout the day and the heaps of filth need to be lifted immediately. What do we project to a tourist or a visitor to the shrine, heaps of filth lying all around," he said.
This is not just the case of one bazaar but also of other areas like Bazaar Pappara, Atta Mandi, Kathianwala Bazaar, Brahambuta Market and other areas. Just behind the Akal Takht in Kathianwala Bazaar, at any given time of the day one can see scrap collectors sitting with their sacks full of polythene bags, empty liquor bottles collected from the nearby hotels and other items which they find on the roads around the shrine.
Gurinder Singh of Atta Mandi complains of the unclean drain and stagnant water during the rainy season. He says though the sewerage problem has been taken care of in his locality, the MC has done little to provide a clean and healthy environment around the shrine.
The bathrooms or toilets of the MC on the road around the Galliara cannot match the cleanliness of the bathrooms on both sides of the Clock Tower entrance of the shrine. One of these bathrooms is maintained by a Singapore-based company, and the other by a Hong Kong-based Sikh family.
Mushrooming of hotels
Mushrooming of hotels in the vicinity of the shrine, particularly after the Golden Temple Beautification or Galiara Project came into force in 1988, has become a major problem.
According to rough estimates, there are around 100 plus hotels/serais, both authorised and un-authorised, functioning in the 300-metre periphery of the shrine. High-rise hotel buildings dot the road running around the green belt of the Galiara. Recently, on the directions of the Punjab and Hayana high court, the district administration has served notices on some of the un-authorised hotels or serais that have come up. From time to time, even the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has served notices to these on the grounds that most of these hotels did not have wastewater treatment plants.
However, the hotel associations say most hoteliers paid taxes to the MC, so they could not be described as 'un-authorised'. Some of the hoteliers even have the letters showing the approval granted by the MC for the building plans. PPCB officials say the old sewerage system in the area is not large enough to handle the waste from so many hotels.