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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Filthy railway lines gets attention, but a permanent solution needed to keep it clean

It is not surprising that none of Mumbai’s railway stations made it to the top ranks of a survey that listed over 400 stations across the country on the basis of their cleanliness.

mumbai Updated: Dec 24, 2017 23:09 IST
Manoj R Nair
Manoj R Nair
Hindustan Times
The problem of garbage along Mumbai railway lines needs a permanent solution.
The problem of garbage along Mumbai railway lines needs a permanent solution.(HT Photo)

The Central Railway has started cleaning its incredibly filthy railway tracks. In the last three months, according to the railway’s estimate, 30,000 cubic metres of garbage, collected in 500,000 trash bags, have been collected for disposal outside the city.

This is just a fraction of the trash that has collected along the railway lines. Around 160,000 cubic metres of trash is expected to be removed in six months. Any commuter using Mumbai’s suburban train system will tell you that the railway tracks are filthy and smelly.

It is not surprising that none of Mumbai’s railway stations made it to the top ranks of a survey that listed over 400 stations across the country on the basis of their cleanliness.

One station on the Western Railway line – which is as filthy as the Central Railway -was ranked 31 in one category.

Attempts over the last few years by citizens groups to attract the railway’s attention to the problem were a failure, till a few weeks ago. One group, ‘Environment Life’, whose members specialise in cleaning the seasonal waterfalls around Mumbai, where revelers leave trash in their wake, had met railway and municipal officials to find out how the railway tracks could be kept clean. The group posted messages on a social media app to get the railway minister’s attention.

The campaign was noticed by commuters and the media reported it, but the railways ignored it. The group met railway babus who directed them to file complaints with the station managers. HT has been reporting regularly about the attempts by the group to get the railways to clean its properties.

It is not just the trash that is a problem. The water channels along the railways that are meant to drain the tracks during rains have become sewers, with slums, offices and residential buildings along the railway line discharging sewage into the storm water drains, rather than sending them to municipal sewer lines.

Dharmesh Barai of Environment Life points out that the stench on the route between the Central Railway headquarters at CSMT and Sandhurst Road is overpowering. “When I sit near the window, the smell is unbearable. Luxury trains like the Deccan Odyssey travel along the route and passengers pay lakhs of rupees to travel on the train. What is the impression they are going to carry back?” asks Barai.

While the railways have blamed the municipal corporation for sending the city’s garbage and sewage onto the tracks, the railway administration too is to be blamed. Railway workers dump metal scrap and construction debris along the railway lines. Commuters who toss garbage into the tracks are also guilty.

In a meeting with rail officers Barai had suggested that they could take the help of volunteers – like the citizens of Versova who are cleaning their dirty beach - to clean the railway lines, but this idea was discarded as there is worry about security.

Municipal officials have told this newspaper that garbage from residential, office buildings and slums is dumped onto the tracks and trash strewn at the railway lines is carried by nullahs. They said that they are conducting ‘awareness drives’ at slums along railway lines, and the number of dumper trucks has also been increased at these locations for faster collection.”

Barai says this is not enough. “The municipal corporation has to divert sewage lines away from the railway storm water drains and citizens who litter railway lines should face punitive action, he suggested. “Nullahs with outfalls along the railway lines also need a trash collection and removal system.”

The problem seems to have received attention from the railway minister. When this newspaper reported about the cleaning operation, the railway minister posted photographs from the news report on a social media site.

This is not the first time the Central Railway has tried to clean up its premises. A decade ago, B B Modgil, a member of the 1972 batch of Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers who took over as the general manager of Central Railway, led a tidying up operation. Railway stations received a thorough scrub and coats of paint, with even the culverts getting a daub of white. On an average night, ten train wagons of rubbish were carted away from the city during that cleaning frenzy.

But the railways need to find a permanent solution to the problem.

First Published: Dec 24, 2017 23:08 IST