DRY DAY: Amherst Street and (right) Southern Avenue. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta and Pradip Sanyal
Several Calcutta neighbourhoods notorious for waterlogging after the briefest of showers had their heads above water through 48 hours of rain before succumbing to the torrent that sank almost the entire city by Tuesday night.
College Street, Southern Avenue, Sunny Park and Amherst Street had looked waterproof until afternoon, thanks to one civic investment that apparently hasn’t gone down the drain.
Civic engineers said removing silt from the choked British-era brick sewers and creating a network of covered drains in areas that had open drainage made the difference during the first 48 hours of the season’s wettest spell.
“The plan to desilt the sewers was sanctioned in 2006 and work started in 2008. We are reaping the benefits of a sustained effort over five years to revive the drainage network,” an official of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation said.
Sources said the desilting project was the brainchild of former municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who worked with CMC engineers to draw up a plan that the Union government agreed to include in the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
“This project shows that even infrastructure that is 150 years old can be rejuvenated with proper planning and execution,” Bandyopadhyay, now principal secretary of the municipal affairs department, told Metro on Tuesday.
Unlike some projects that had started during Left rule, the plan to salvage the city’s British-era sewers and build a new network elsewhere has been sustained by the Trinamul-run board.
Sewers running under 60km of roads across the city have been cleaned, including AJC Bose Road, APC Road, Lenin Sarani, Rashbehari Avenue and Hazra Road.
The desilted sewers under APC Road spared Amherst Street and Sukeas Street their usual torment while those along Hazra Road helped keep Ballygunge Phari waterlogging-free for the most part.
The CMC also had 20 new pumping stations and an equal number of upgraded ones working round-the-clock.
For residents of localities where waterlogging is a part of life, not having to wade through water from overflowing drains through 48 hours of rain till Tuesday afternoon was a pleasant surprise.
“Since childhood, I am used to crossing Sukeas Street in a hand-pulled rickshaw whenever there is a shower. I was prepared to do the same today to reach APC Road but didn’t need to,” said Alok Mukherjee of Shyambazar.
Civic engineers blamed a blocked canal for waterlogging in parts of Kasba and some localities on the city’s eastern fringe. “Water from these areas drain out into the canal linked to Kulti Gang. The water level in the river was higher than that of the canal on Tuesday, so the lock gate at the meeting point could not be opened,” an official explained.
By Tuesday night, AJC Bose Road and CR Avenue were waterlogged, too. The stretch of Park Street between Flurys and St. Xavier’s was under ankle-deep water after getting through a day-and-a-half of rain without flooding.
“No civic body in the world can cope with this much rain. The CMC’s drainage capacity is 6mm per hour. Since Tuesday afternoon, there has been much more rain than that. The drainage channels were overflowing when rain became heavier in the evening,” said a senior official of the CMC.
Two Trinamul Congress councillors in Budge Budge were allegedly forced to wade through knee-deep water by residents angered by the municipality’s alleged lack of effort to prevent flooding.
Aloka Maity and Jayanta Sardar, councillors of ward numbers 31 and 35 at Maheshtala, had gone to Budge Budge Trunk Road to inspect a broken culvert when residents waylaid them and insisted that the duo “experience” their waterlogging woes.
A police team came to the councillors’ rescue but not before they had waded through water for some distance. Municipality chairman Dulal Das accused the CPM of orchestrating the protest.