Monsoon misery in Punjab: That sinking feeling, again

HT takes a look at why Ludhiana, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala – three of them on ‘Smart Cities’ map – go underwater every time it rains.

punjab Updated: Jul 20, 2018 12:40 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana/Bathinda/Amritsar/Patiala/Jalandhar
monsoon,punjab,punjab news
Schoolchildren wading through a waterlogged street after rain in Bathinda on Tuesday. (HT Photo)

On Monday, a few hours of rain submerged Ludhiana like never before. The situation was no different in other Punjab cities where flooding is an annual ritual due to ill-maintained drainage system, choked culverts and haphazard growth. HT takes a look at why Ludhiana, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala – three of them on ‘Smart Cities’ map – go underwater every time it rains.

Punjab’s industrial hub knee-deep in mess

A spell of heavy rain lasting a few hours for two days starting Monday brought Ludhiana, the industrial hub of Punjab, to a grinding halt. Whether it was posh residential areas, arterial roads or slum areas in the walled city, everyone faced the wrath of rain.

While many schools had to declare a holiday as the classrooms were flooded and walls of two government schools collapsed, water of the Buddha Nullah entering houses worsened the plight of residents. The city witnessed hours-long traffic jams at several places and some incidents of road cave-ins were also reported.

The reasons behind this civic breakdown are not hard to find.

Having found place in the central government’s first list of 20 smart cities, Ludhiana does not have proper storm-water drainage system, as a result of which most parts of the city submerge in rainwater during monsoon every year. The sewer lines laid decades back are not able to cope with the pressure of a rising population and rapid industrialisation.

The sewer lines, especially those in the old city areas, are not able to bear the pressure as they are overloaded. Railway station Road, New Kundanpuri, Madhopuri, Focal Point, Haibowal, Chandigarh Road, Millerganj are among the areas that get flooded every year.

Rattan Singh, a resident of New Kundanpuri, said, “Contaminated water is being supply in our area due to choked sewer lines but the authorities are paying no heed to this.”

Such is the situation that the Punjab local bodies department last September had submitted an affidavit in the Punjab and Haryana high court that stormwater drainage will be installed in the state’s cities. But nothing has been done yet.

The Buddha Nullah overflows almost every year due to the authorities’ failure to desilt it before monsoon. Locals say the municipal corporation has not cleaned drains and sewer lines in the city, leading to waterlogging.

This year also, the civic body started the desilting process one-and-a-half months late due to financial crunch.

(by Harsimran Singh Batra)

The wastewater overflowing from the Buddha Nullah flooded the Kundan Puri area in Ludhiana.

Poor drainage: Amritsar civic body caught on the wrong foot

Though the state government and the civic authorities have spent crores to improve infrastructure in Amritsar, no system has been devised to ameliorate the drainage system. As a result, a few hours of rain throws life out of gear with waterlogged roads and storm water entering houses.

The situation has turned from bad to worse over the years even as Amritsar is being developed as a Smart City under the Union government project. Half-an-hour of rain on Wednesday exposed ill-preparedness of the municipal corporation for the monsoon.

With the increase in population, the underground sewerage system remains choked at many places. An MC official said the city has 200km of main sewer line in 85 wards. The MC deployed super suction machines to de-silt the main line, but the work is going on at a slow pace, he said. Mayor Karamjit Singh Rintu said only 40% of the total de-silting work has been completed in the city so far.

The city also has 28 disposal plants to draw water from sewer lines. “But this system doesn’t work due to frequent power cuts during rains. The suction pumps also turn ineffective during heavy rain,” said an MC official. Though the MC was advised to lay storm sewer system, the MC has failed to do so.

“Interlocking tiles laid during the previous SAD-BJP government’s regime along roads, gardens and public places are also to blame for the situation as they obstruct rainwater percolation,” said the mayor. The chronic flooding points in the city are Hall gate to Ram Bagh gate, area near bus stand, Heritage Street, Lawrence Road and Ranjit Avenue.

City resident Satish Kapoor said the sewerage system in Amritsar is too old and the MC is not paying any heed towards revamping it.

Deepak Babbar, president of Mission Agaaz, an NGO, said due to the poor design of the holy city, residents face problem of waterlogging every monsoon. The government should come up with a plan to spare some area on both sides of all roads of the city for greenbelts.

(by Surjit Singh)

Clogged sewers are Bathinda’s bane

Bathinda is no different from any other Punjab city when it comes to waterlogging menace. Even a moderate spell of rain is enough to submerge several parts of the city. Though the issue is not new to low-lying areas, other parts of Bathinda also bore the brunt this year, courtesy: No desilting of clogged sewer lines and lack of storm drains.

Encroachment around the city’s five buffer ponds, coupled with the non-clearance of silt in them, became another contributor to this perennial issue.

Bathinda MC commissioner Rishi Pal Singh blames the private firm, Triveni Constructions, which is responsible for maintenance of sewerage system, for the mismanagement.

Firm’s general manager VB Shivangi claims that Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board had assigned them the work of maintaining desilited sewer lines, but handed over the choked lines. MC pays Rs 6 crore every year to the board to get such works done through the private firm. Board’s executive engineer Shiv Das Kansal says he will look into the issue.

However, MC officials claim that one rainwater pond has been desilted, effect of which is visible in the adjoining areas. A sewerage and water supply project worth Rs 188 crore is stalled due to lack of funds. Rishi Pal says they would have to secure loans to resume the work.

Sirki Bazaar, Power House Road, Civil Lines area, besides Mall Road, Paras Ram Nagar and periphery of the District Administrative Complex are the worst-hit spots where water gets accumulated up to three feet following a heavy downpour. A trader in Sirki Bazaar, Shashi Kumar, rues, “Many a time we had to shut our shops for three consecutive days due to deluge.”

Another businessman Mahesh Kumar says, “I have been witnessing this for three decades..”

The MC on Thursday took the onus of desilting the sewer lines during a meeting of finance and contract committee. Punjab finance minister and Bathinda (urban) MLA Manpreet Singh Badal has sanctioned funds for the same, and the MC will also be pooling in.

(by Sachin Sharma)

Woes brimming over in Royal City

A few hours of rain often results in a deluge-like situation in Patiala, hometown of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Around 110mm of rainfall in past 15 days has exposed ill-preparedness of the municipal corporation and the district administration to tackle the waterlogging problem.

The municipal corporation (MC) and the drainage department claimed to have started de-silting of main three main sewer lines passing through the city. Though the authorities say Rs 2 crore have been spent on cleaning 12km sewer-cum-drainage lines before monsoon, the situation has not improved.

“Had the de-silting work not been done before rains, the situation could have gone out of hand,” said Suresh Kumar, MC executive engineer.

The absence of dedicated storm sewer lines is the root cause of the situation. “It is a huge project that requires large amount of funds. For the time being, we are using sewer lines to flush out rainwater,” Kumar said.

Though the drainage department claims of completing de-silting work of Jacob drain and Patiala drain (Vaddi Nadi), the waterlogging problem persists in the city. An MC official said the work orders for cleaning both the drain were issued in the last week of June, but the started a few days ago.

Five chronic flooding spot in the city are Model Town, colonies situated in and around the Lehal area, Khalsa Mohalla and Lahori Gate, ISBT and the Tripari area. Bablu Kumar, a city resident, said: “A short spell of rain leaves roads inundated for several hours. It is better to make our own arrangements than to depend on authorities.”

Nawal Kishore, a shopkeeper, said: “We have built three feet wall outside our shops so water does not enter
our establishments.The municipal corporation has failed to find a permanent solution to the problem.”

Manpreet Singh, a resident of Ajit Nagar, said: “What’s the use of spending crores on cleaning the storm sewer lines if there is no respite from waterlogging?”

(by Navrajdeep Singh)

Being rain-ready a far cry in Jalandhar

The two-hour rain on Wednesday exposed how ill-prepared Jalandhar, a would-be smart city, is to tackle waterlogging when there is a heavy downpour.

Choked sewer pipelines due to plastic coupled with the absence of proper sewerage cleaning led to flooding of the majority of roads and low-lying areas in the city.

The worst-hit areas were 120 Feet Road, Sodal Road, Preet Nagar Road, Ladowali Road, Basti Adda Road, Football Chowk, district administrative complex, Domoria Bridge, Basti Sheikh, New Railway Road and Phagwara Gate.

Jatinder Singh Khaira, an assistant professor at a city college, said, “I left for office at 8am and by the time I reached Kapurthala Chowk, it had started raining heavily. We moved only a few metres in an hour.”

Though Jalandhar along with Amritsar was included in the smart city list by the Union government in September 2016, the civic body has managed to cover only about 8% area with stormwater drainage while the existing sewage pipes are small in size to handle a heavy flow of water.

Even as the civic body has been using super suction machines to clear the choked sewer pipes for over a year, but they proved of little used when the city got waterlogged.

The stagnant rainwater has created potholes on the roads in the city’s posh localities such as Cool road, Income Tax Colony, Model Town and Mall Road, giving an open invitation to mishaps.

The Congress-ruled MC House, facing a huge fund crunch, apparently does not have any plan to tackle heavy rain in future. Making the matters worse, the civic body staff has been on strike for the last four days to protest against non-payment of their June salaries.

“Since only 8% area of the city is currently covered under stormwater drainage, this is why water took so much time to recede,” said Kishor Chand Bansal, superintending engineer (operation and maintenance).

In the last financial year, MC had spent Rs 45 lakh on cleanliness and maintenance of sewerage and water supply system in the city.

(by Jatinder Mahal)

‘Stopgap measures are not a remedy,’ says Rajinder Sharma, ex-chief town planner, Punjab

Why drainage system fails in Punjab cities during rains?

The problem is lack of coordination among different government agencies and unplanned development. In most of the cases, dwelling units comes up first and drainage system is laid later. Colonisers care two hoots about standard gradient in an area, causing flooding.

Who’s should be held accountable?

People who prepare the blueprints of cities. Also, there is a lack of enforcement of rules. The government departments impose hefty charges such as building plan fee, house tax and development charges but fail to provide basic facilities.

Why nothing changes on ground?

Stop-gap arrangements are no remedy. The government agencies have the tendency to make cosmetic changes. Why can’t they clean every drain?

Why are depts failing to keep pace with changing needs?

We can’t blame the rise in population for waterlogging during rains. People will earn and buy houses. The state agencies charge levies from them and should build infrastructure.

First Published: Jul 20, 2018 12:29 IST