Pumps to drain water installed at Anna Nagar, traffic still chaotic

The residents of the washed away houses of the JJ cluster were temporarily moved to tents set up near the IP Estate metro station.
A view of damaged homes in Anna Nagar where several houses collapsed due to heavy rain in New Delhi.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
A view of damaged homes in Anna Nagar where several houses collapsed due to heavy rain in New Delhi.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jul 21, 2020 12:59 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Vatsala Shrangi and Shiv Sunny

A day after 10 houses along the banks of a stormwater drain (Dr Sen Nursing Home Drain) in Anna Nagar slum behind ITO were washed away with torrential rainfall in the national capital, 14 pumps were installed at the site on Monday to drain the stagnated water in the area.

The residents of the washed away houses of the JJ cluster were temporarily moved to tents set up near the IP Estate metro station.

The water from the drain affected vehicular movement on Bhairon Marg and adjoining roads for most of Monday as well.

One carriageway of Bhairon Marg—from Mathura Road towards Ring Road—remained closed for vehicular movement all of Monday as large volumes of water had covered hundreds of metres of the road around the drain, including as far as ITO and IP Flyover, said Taj Hassan, special commissioner of police (Delhi Traffic Police).

“The PWD and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) engineers are pumping out the water and repairing the affected roads,” said Hassan.

Also read: Why does Delhi flood every Monsoon?

While the Bhairon Marg carriageway remained closed, vehicles from Laxmi Nagar were diverted towards Rajaram Kohli Marg and Akshardham side, the traffic police said. Vehicles coming from Akshardham and Ashram side towards central and north Delhi were requested to move towards Mathura Road, Barapulla and Noida Link Road.

According to officials of SDMC, under the jurisdiction of which the stormwater drain is, said that they have been trying to pump out the water and the work would take until Monday evening. “We have placed 14 pumps here, but the basement that was dug up to build a parking lot here by an agency is full of water. There is water up till Ring Road and it may take us until Monday evening to drain it,” said a senior official in charge of operations at the site, who did not wish to be named.

A 16-storey World Health Organization (WHO) building is being constructed on a 7,000 square metre plot in the area by the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC)—a government of India enterprise—for which the basement was dug up.

He added that the drain is about 1,200-1,500 metres long and 3-5 metres deep. The corporation cleaned it during the desilting process. “The houses built just along the embankment were almost level with the water in the drain, which kept rising due to the heavy rainfall, and were washed away. The houses had extended their area near the drain,” the official said.

Another official at the site, requesting anonymity, said that the embankment on one side was breached because of the digging work. The foundation was weakened, and the soil was eroded due to the heavy flow of water.

Also read: Engineers survey 200-year-old Old Delhi mosque which was damaged in rain

However, NBCC officials said they had been following all norms and constructing as per approval of the SDMC. “The force of the water was so tremendous that it destroyed all barricades we had set up and submerged the entire parking lot that is about 12 metres deep. There is about 25 lakh cubic feet water on our premises now,” said an NBCC official.

According to experts, there are several such drains in the city, whose embankments have been encroached upon by clusters of kuchha and pucca (brick and mortar) houses as well as shanties.

“Almost all drains have some kind of encroachment. The bigger drains are mostly along the sides of key stretches, not leaving much space for houses to come up. But since stormwater drains are relatively smaller in size and flow between colonies, they are more prone to such kind of encroachments,” said RS Tyagi, advisor to the NGT-appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee, who has been tasked with inspecting city drains.

He added that the Dr Sen Nursing Home Drain is a historic natural drain, which was engineered to function as a stormwater drain. Some of the other stormwater drains with unauthorised houses on both sides include the Brahmpuri, Shahdara, Gokalpuri and Palam (Janakpuri to Dwarka) drains.

“There are houses until the boundary erected along the drain. People keep extending their backyards up to the drainage area, as unauthorised growth in the city continues unchecked. The drains are full of garbage, also thrown in directly by the residents living there as well as sewage. Even during desilting, the drains are not cleaned well,” said Tyagi.

A K Gosain, Professor Emeritus, the department of civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Delhi) said that the houses along drains in the city are invariably encroachments “... just like the majority of floodplains of the Yamuna river are encroached upon. Every drain has a drainage area, which is required to be left untouched. But in most cases, houses invariably come up just adjacent to it. Similar incidents like the one at ITO could take place at other places as well. The government must remove the encroachments. Besides, the drains need to be cleaned well to check blockage. The government needs to fix the responsibility for the upkeep of the drains with a single agency, which can help resolve the issue to a large extent.”

Vishal, a 42-year-old flower seller, whose house was washed away, said that the drain had been around for the same time that the slum has been in existence—about five decades—but it never caused any problems.

“In monsoon, the drain would overflow—sometimes as high as five feet more than usual—but the water never entered our homes. We never had to rush out of our homes or even remove our belongings,” said Vishal, who goes by a single name.

The slum includes people from the North as well as South India and its residents are involved in all kinds of work— ranging from MCD to railway employees and drivers to daily wagers.

Padam Kumar, another affected resident, laid the blame squarely on the construction of the three-level basement parking lot of the WHO building being constructed on the other side of the drain.

He said that the deep construction had caused the soil to erode because of which the drain water entered the basement and got accumulated there. “Because of that, a large tree near the WHO basement was uprooted. That caused the water to sweep away our houses,” said Kumar.

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