Time to clean up Mumbai’s railway stations and tracks

MUMBAI CITY NEWS: The last time there was a concerted effort to clean the tracks was a decade ago when B B Modgil, a 1972 batch member of Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, took over as the new general manager of Central Railway

mumbai Updated: May 22, 2017 08:56 IST
Manoj Nair
Manoj Nair
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,Multiplicity,Mumbai railway stations
If a survey is done to spot the dirtiest stretches of rail tracks, several sections of Mumbai would figure in it.(HT FILE)

Mumbai was dismayed when none of its railway stations made it to the top ranks in a recent survey of over 400 stations in the country. There was a consolation prize: a station on the Western Railway line was ranked 31 in one category. Embarrassed by the findings, the railways said it would appoint guards to fine commuters who litter the stations.

If a survey is done to identify the dirtiest stretches of rail tracks in the country, several sections of Mumbai’s railway lines would figure in it. In January, members of a group of volunteers — Environment Life — met railway and municipal officials to find out whether the filthiest sections of the tracks could be cleaned. The group posted messages, along with photographs of the dirtiest tracks, on a social media application to get the railway minister’s attention. The campaign was noticed by commuters and the media but the railways ignored it. The group then met railway officials who asked them to send complaints to the station managers.

“The railways said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) should take away the garbage but the civic body said it was the railway’s responsibility to keep the tracks clean,” said Dharmesh Birai of the group. “The garbage is thrown by commuters and by residents of slums and buildings in areas that the BMC cleans. Why do the station masters need to be told about something the railways should be doing on a regular basis?”

Birai said that he, like other commuters on Mumbai’s suburban trains, finds Mumbai’s railway tracks filthy and smelly. Sewage from residential and office areas flows into channels that are meant to drain monsoon run off from the tracks. Birai travels between Mansarovar, Navi Mumbai, and CST and says that the tracks between Sandhurst Road and CST are the dirtiest. He estimates that there are five to 10 truckloads of garbage strewn between Byculla – where waste from the fruit and vegetable markets are dumped along the railway line — and CST, a distance of a little more than 5 kms. Apart from the garbage from the vegetable and fruit markets, sewage from a municipal fish market near CST is discharged into the railway’s storm water channels. At other places, discarded concrete sleepers, metal scrap and construction debris line the tracks.

The last time there was a concerted effort to clean the tracks was a decade ago when B B Modgil, a 1972 batch member of Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, took over as the new general manager of Central Railway. In the first two months of his tenure, Modgil gave Mumbai’s railway stations a thorough scrub, with fresh paint on the station walls and roofs. Boundary walls along the tracks were white-washed and construction debris and garbage that had been piled on the tracks for decades were collected in bags and sent out of the city in special trains. On an average night, 10 train wagons of rubbish were carted away from the city.

Birai suggests that the railways should collaborate with the BMC, corporate houses and voluntary groups to clean the tracks. “During every weekend they have mega blocks (when train services on sectors are suspended to enable repairs and renovation of tracks and electrical equipment). Why cannot they have a similar programme to clear garbage from the tracks?” asks Birai.

With the BMC and the railways not agreeing about how the garbage should be disposed of, the railways are forced to burn garbage – which contains a large amount of plastic in the form of food wrappers and water bottles – in bonfires near the stations. The burning releases toxic dioxins into the air, besides leaving hazardous residue on the ground.

The CST-Sandhurst Road stretch seems to have got the railway’s attention. On Sunday, Birai reported that workers were loading the trash into bags that were neatly piled up along the tracks.

First Published: May 22, 2017 00:12 IST