Garbage clearance by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) at peak hours throws the traffic into disarray almost every morning. This raises a stink as, in the absence of vats, the garbage is often dumped by the roadside.
'At night or early morning, the garbage cannot be removed because the employees engaged for the job are not available,' said mayor Gopal Mukherjee. Police say the problem is compounded as the number of conservancy employees is inadequate. Grand Trunk Road and thoroughfares branching out of it are the worst affected areas, as garbage from multi-storeyed buildings is dumped there.
'Garbage dumped on GT Road and its branches takes up space meant for traffic. HMC trucks fan out on these roads, two to three per road, along with a mechanised garbage lifter, to clean up the waste, thereby blocking them during rush hour,' said a traffic policeman on duty on southern GT Road. 'It adds to the chaos and throws GT Road traffic out of gear,' he added.
Local residents, who bear the brunt of the 'untimely garbage removal' during rush hour, complain that no steps are taken to solve the problem. They complain also of the unbearable stench that persists in the area for hours.
'It has really become difficult for us to live with the stench. It is a double problem. To begin with, there are traffic snarls, and then the stench lingers,' said Hiralal Shaw, a resident of a multi-storeyed building on GT Road, in Shibpur. He added that this is a major problem for officer-goers.
The worst affected areas are Shibpur, Netaji Subhas Road in south Howrah and parts of north Howrah, including Salkia, Ghusuri, Benaras Road and parts of central Howrah, including Kadamtala market, on new HIT Road.
Whatever the ensuing problems, garbage is at least removed from the main roads. But this is rarely done in the narrow lanes that conservancy employees visit none too often, leading to the pile-up of garbage and filth.
'Markets, too, are not cleaned regularly. There are only a few vats, which are inadequate to handle the huge quantities of filth that accumulate,' said Subrata Chattopadhyay, a local trader who runs a shop in Kadamtala market.
Admitting the seriousness of the problem, superintendent of Howrah police M.K. Bhattacharya said: 'It is high time that the civic authorities did something about it.' However, officials of the conservancy department of the HMC brushed aside the problem, saying residents were overreacting. 'At least our employees try hard to keep the township clean,' said the mayor.