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Monsoon catches civic machinery napping

Calcutta’s civic machinery is going into yet another monsoon test underprepared. Waterlogging-prone parts of the city may have escaped their usual torment when it rained heavily last week — more than 40mm in the north on Wednesday and an equal amount in the south the next day — but it’s still early days in the battle against familiar foes. While the Calcutta Municipal Corporation insists it has done enough to help the city keep its head above the water this rainy season, some deficiencies seem to have been glossed over. The irrigation department, whose responsibility it is to dredge the canals into which rainwater flows, seems to have slipped up too. Subhajoy Roy draws up a report card for monsoon preparedness

PUMPING STATIONS

What’s required

  • All pumps ready for use whenever needed
  • Clean screens at the pumping stations to separate floating material like plastics from the rainwater drained out into the canals

What the reality is

The rain in north Calcutta last Wednesday gave a glimpse of what’s in store, though places like Maniktala and Belgachhia were spared long hours of waterlogging.

Police sources said trams plying on Rabindra Sarani had to be halted for nearly an hour because the tracks were submerged. Parts of MG Road and Central Avenue were inundated as well.

According to a source in the CMC, a third of the pumps that drain out water into the canals aren’t usable. Three pumps at the Palmer Bazar pumping station, which services large stretches of central and north Calcutta, have conked out.

What it means

Waterlogging can’t be ruled out. CMC engineers say the city’s drainage system is designed to keep streets waterlogging-free only if it rains up to 6mm in an hour. Anything beyond that and you got to get your feet dirty. Pumps that don’t function could make it worse.

ROADS

What’s required

  • Repairs before the onset on monsoon
  • Extra attention to the usual trouble spots like EM Bypass, Rashbehari connector and James Long Sarani

What the reality is

The CMC says it has repaired the Rashbehari connector and James Long Sarani, two of the three roads that were in bad shape last monsoon.

The Bypass does look better after the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) repaired the speed corridor but the parallel service roads are still pathetic. The service road between the passport office at Ruby and Calcutta International School resembles a village road that hasn’t seen a road roller ever.

The Prince Anwar Shah Road connector, which was also a horror stretch last monsoon, hasn’t been fully repaired. The patchwork looks set to wither away after a couple of more heavy spells of rain. Worse, there are no drains along some stretches.

What it means

The service road in front of passport office is best avoided when it rains, though people who live in the vicinity don’t have a choice. Previous years have shown that the monsoon invariably reveals the rotten core of most city roads. This year is unlikely to be any different because of how repairs were carried out

CANALS

What’s required

  • Canals dredged and free of water hyacinth
  • Removal of blockages that may have been created for some purpose and left like that

What the reality is

The irrigation department has removed silt from the Monikhali, Chorial and Tollygunge-Panchannagram canals to which rainwater is drained out from parts of Behala, Tollygunge and Garia. Tolly’s Nullah and the Beleghata canal were dredged too but water hyacinth has filled up some stretches already.

The Kestopur canal is still being dredged, which could prove counter-productive if the silt stacked along the bank is washed away. Some of it may go back into the canal when it rains or even spill over to VIP Road, triggering accidents like those on May 25 when several two-wheelers skidded on the slush.

What it means

Canals where work is underway might be less than efficient when needed. Those where colonies of water hyacinth have reappeared need immediate attention, otherwise they will block the flow of water and cause waterlogging on the streets

GULLY PITS

What’s required

  • Gully pits and catch pits free of silt
  • Cleaner underground lines carrying rainwater to the pumping stations

What the reality is

Workers are still on the job. A CMC engineer termed cleaning gully pits “a round-the-year exercise”.

What it means

Areas where gully pits have not been cleared yet might find rainwater receding slower than at other places. Much also depends on the alertness of civic workers whose job is to ensure nothing blocks the mouth of a gully pit

HEALTH

What’s required

  • Etymological survey to detect mosquito larvae. Civic workers should visit localities at least once a fortnight and spray larvicide
  • Stock-taking of medicines available and distribution among borough offices and health centres from the central depot
  • Annual maintenance of lab, fogging and spraying equipment
  • Awareness drive about monsoon diseases

What the reality is

Sources in the CMC said the civic body had adequate medicine stocks and testing kits for dengue and malaria. “We will beef up larvicide spraying when the weather is dry. If it rains regularly, as is the case now, water alone will wash the larvae away,” an official said.

What it means

The civic body did well last year to control the incidence of dengue, compared to 2012. The next few months will prove whether that was a fluke

BUILDINGS

What’s required

Identify buildings that might collapse during heavy rain and ask the owners to demolish the dangerous portions

What the reality is

The CMC has formed a 15-member disaster management team stationed at the civic headquarters to go out and rescue people in the event of a building collapse.

What it means

The strategy is more reactive than proactive