Choked N-choe raises a stink in Mohali
It’s that time of the year again. The Municipal Corporation of Mohali is planning to get the drains and choes cleaned well in advance before the monsoons. It recently tasked the Punjab Irrigation department with cleaning up the N-Choe.
After the extreme rain event on August 21 last year that left large tracts of the city submerged, MC officials had held a meeting with the deputy commissioner and Punjab Engineering College (PEC) to discuss ways to check water-logging during the monsoons.
They concluded that the solution lay in cleaning the N-Choe, which would then be able to drain the excess rainwater and prevent waterlogging in the city.
THE NATURAL CHOE
The N-Choe is a seasonal stream that originates in Chandigarh. It starts near the Punjab Civil Secretariat in Sector 2, Chandigarh and passes through Sectors 16, 23, 36, 41, 42 before meandering to Kajheri village. It then flows to Mohali, Burail jail, and then on to Phase 9, PCA stadium, Sectors 66, 67, and to the Chilla and Mohali villages. The stream finally flows towards the Patiala district before falling into the Ghaggar river in Haryana.
This choe carries with it sludge from Chandigarh. In Mohali too, several storm-water and sludge outlets drain into it, much to the dismay of people living in the vicinity who have to contend with foul smell coming from the choe.
A visit to the N-Choe near the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) shows it is heavily overgrown with weeds and wild grass.
But will cleaning the choe do the trick? No, says N S Kalsi, former executive engineer of PUDA. He says the only way to make the choe an effective drain is to remove the stone pitching from its bed on an area of over 3 km from the UT boundary up to Sector 80.
The dug up stones, he suggests, should be used on the banks of the choe passing through Sector 80 and 81, which will give a U shape to the bed, making it easy for the water to be drained.
“The bed should be shaped like a ‘U’ instead of being flat so that water drains out fast. All the gaps should be filled with concrete,” suggested Kalsi.
MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN
The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) has spent over ₹3.5 crore on the N-choe in the last seven years with no productive output. Most of this sum was spent on stone pitching, which started in 2007.
GMADA decided to do stone pitching on both sides of the choe to stop soil from the sides. After that they started stone pitching the bed as well. Even then, Kalsi had objected, saying this would flatten the drain’s bed. “During the rains, sludge water can flow only through a U-type drain, and not through a flat one,” Kalsi had argued.
GMADA chief engineer Sunil Kansal, however, says they had taken expert advise before going ahead with the project. “The stone pitching on the sides was required and was executed after inviting tenders,” said Kansal.
The pitching did little to stop waterlogging in the surrounding areas and the N-choe was soon overgrown with wild grass and weeds. . Over time, a weed called ‘Golden gronta’ shot up to a height of 12 to 15 feet, obstructing the flow of sludge and rainwater in the choe.
Finally in 2010, GMADA shelled out ₹16 lakh for cleaning the choe and removing the weeds. The cutting operation was carried out, but the weeds came back again.
Kamaljit Singh Ruby, councillor of Phase 9, says the choe needs to be cleaned up fast. “The weeds pose a major problem. During monsoons, the rainwater gets stranded in the choe and even enters our houses. The choe also emits a foul smell.”
Kalsi say the weeds should be dug out from the roots and this will be possible only when the stone pitching is removed. “Once the stone pitching is removed, the choe will again turn into a natural drain. Any wild growth that comes up, will also get washed away with the pressure of flowing water in the monsoons,” said Kalsi.
The surrounding residents want the administration to stop the flow of sewage and untreated waste into the choe as well. The worst affected are the residents in Phases 8, 9, 10 and 11, besides Sectors 66, 67, and the villages of Chilla and Manauli.
In 2010, Punjab Pollution Control Board had also reported that effluents discharged in the N-Choe in Chandigarh were beyond the permissible limits.