Bhubaneswar, June 6: The blazing sun bared its fangs and made those who dared to step outdoors retreat meekly back inside as the shooting mercury touched 46.6°C today.
This was the third day in a row that residents of the state capital stayed put indoors. The few who had no choice but to step out in the afternoon covered their faces with scarves or carried umbrellas in an attempt to shield themselves.
In the state secretariat, where employees usually take their lunch out on the lawns, few stirred outside their rooms. Some, like Kedar Singh, complained about their rooms being stuffy and fans moving slowly because of low voltage.
Power cuts compounded people’s misery with the supply getting disrupted in the morning and afternoon in various parts of the city. Complaints of low voltage were numerous. In slum areas, erratic water supply added to summer woes.
Worried about the extreme heat, experts have suggested the creation of more water harvesting structures on the outskirts of the city and preservation of water bodies and swampy areas besides measures for recharging groundwater.
Retired professor of geology at Utkal University N.K. Mahalik said all the 10 natural drainage channels in the city had become polluted and encroached upon by burgeoning urban growth.
He said the time had come for the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) to plan in advance so that the other natural drainage channels (not listed by BDA) that originate from the Chandaka forests could be preserved.
Professor of geology at Ravenshaw University Nachiketa Das said the state government should take urgent steps to build micro dams or water harvesting structures on the slopes of the Chandaka forests. This would change the soil structure and cool the environment.
Chandaka Sanctuary has several small water harvesting structures that form lakes around the conserved area. “Even during this heat wave, all our water harvesting structures are full of water. More harvesting structures will definitely have a cooling effect,” said divisional forest officer Sibanarayan Mohapatra.
Urban management practitioner Piyush Ranjan Rout said: “Major water bodies such as Laxmisagar lake, Santh Tulasi Sarobar near Pahala and Haja pokhari near Sundarpada are some examples of how the civic authorities have failed to revive the water carrying capacity of traditional water sources. The apathy of the authorities in the face of a persistent heat-wave like condition in the city is surprising.”
“The decision to have a road link along the Daya West Canal has sounded the death knell for it,” Rout said.
Ecologist Prasad Dash said the BDA should protect eco-sensitive zones, low-lying areas and marshy spots from greedy real-estate developers. However, BDA officials said that with a new building regulation in 2012 the development body would not allow individual plotting schemes in eco-sensitive zones and restrict haphazard growth.
“We will only allow planned projects relating to water sports, hotels or group housing in eco-sensitive zones but only after clearance from a panel of ecologists,” said BDA vice-chairman Deoranjan Kumar Singh.
BDA planning member Prashant Kumar Patnaik said: “Rainwater harvesting is mandatory for institutions, hospitals, malls, market complexes and other mega projects.”