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Natural coolers choke on weeds

- Decaying plants kick up stench, expose residents to health hazards

Every swelter season, we seek open windows to let some cool breeze in. But residents of two Ranchi wards do not have this bare minimum luxury, courtesy rotting clusters of watercress floating on the capital’s most popular water bodies.

Unabated growth of the aquatic species, scientifically known as Nasturtium officinale, on the surface of Kanke reservoir and the 53-acre Ranchi Lake has made life stinking hell for the people of Ward No. 1 and 24, respectively.

Popularly known as jalkumbhi, the unwelcome green carpet not only makes it difficult to demarcate land and water masses, the decaying plants are a veritable threat to health and environment.

The lake — better known as Bada Talab — has a park along its east periphery, a hospital in the north and an ashram to its the west. People who visit these places face an olfactory challenge as do residents. A half-kilometre pile of garbage along the lake’s southern periphery adds to the putrid weed menace because it is a breeding ground for vectors.

“The jalkumbhi has covered a big chunk of Bada Talab and is hampering the natural cooling system, let alone the foul smell,” said hardware dealer Dinesh Agarwal.

Ward No. 24 councillor Saba Naaz promised to take up the matter with RMC bosses. “I will wait for a day for civic workers to clean the weeds. If the lake water is not freed of watercress by Thursday, I will approach the deputy mayor or the CEO,” she said.

RMC public relations officer (PRO) Naresh Kumar pinned the blame on civic workers. “Two people have been deputed to always keep the lake clean. I will check on them and ensure that the waters are not encroached upon by weeds,” he said.

Like the lake, the reservoir in Kanke, which has a catchment area of 9.44 square miles, is also choking on jalkumbhi.

Shradha Devi, a resident of Lake Avenue, voiced her concerns: “We cannot keep windows facing the dam open because of the unbearable stench.”

R.K. Gupta, who owns a shop on Kanke Road, echoed her. “The foul smell gets stronger in the evening. We have spoken to Nakul Tirkey (husband of local councillor Sunita Tirkey). Let’s see what happens.”

RMC PRO Kumar said that cleaning the reservoir was the job of the drinking water and sanitation department. “I will intimate officials of the department so that the jalkumbhi is removed at the earliest,” he added.