The Telegraph
Thursday , September 6 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shower & sewer fitness test
Heart of south sinks, usual suspects spared

Sunny Park sank and Ballygunge Phari fared no better but many of the notoriously waterlogging-prone neighbourhoods passed the drainage test on the day of the season’s heaviest rain.

The surge of knee-deep water that greeted those stepping out of their homes in parts of Ballygunge at 10.30am on Wednesday had barely receded to shin-deep slush by 8.30pm.

If “why?” was the question on the lips of frowning residents in this part of south Calcutta, “how?” was the buzz elsewhere in town where all it used to take was a short spell of heavy rain to dunk the entire locality in ditch water.

Most of these areas were spared their usual waterlogging woes because of phased removal of silt from the city’s choked Raj-era brick sewers that hadn’t been cleaned in years. The sewers along Hazra Road are still being cleaned, which officials said was the reason why parts of Ballygunge suffered on Wednesday.

“Rainwater did not drain out quickly as the sewer lines under Hazra Road are blocked,” said an engineer with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

A resident of Ballygunge Phari returning from work in the evening said “something must be very wrong” for water to remain stagnant in his area while most other parts of the city were free of waterlogging.

“I didn’t find water in most of Calcutta on the drive back home. Why should it take so long for water to be drained out of here?” he demanded.

Those who walked had to wade through a 700-metre stretch between Ballygunge Phari and Sunny Park. The bad news is that the rest of monsoon could be just as bad for this part of the city. An official said the civic body expected to complete the job “by the middle of next year”.

Given the pace at which the CMC works on projects, the wait could be longer.

In north Calcutta, Vedika Agarwal couldn’t believe she was returning home from her Vivekananda Road school wearing her shoes rather than holding them.

“I don’t have to wade through dirty water anymore to reach home. I am delighted,” trilled the resident of Mansukh Bhavan, on Mahatma Gandhi Road.

But there was no relief for Paikpara in the north, a stretch of Diamond Harbour Road near Silpara in the south and Muktaram Babu Street in central Calcutta.

“There is hardly any waterlogging in north Calcutta but we on Northern Avenue (in Paikpara) are suffering as usual,” said college student Somdatta Chatterjee, waiting for a rickshaw in Umakanta Sen Lane to take him to Dum Dum Metro station.

Water drained out from most of Burdwan Road, Madan Mohan Burman Street, Surya Sen Street and Bidhan Sarani, near the Thanthania Kali temple, by afternoon.

An uprooted tree at Selimpur, near Jadavpur, blocked the entire south-bound flank and one-third of the north-bound flank in the morning. Traffic movement in Jadavpur, Dhakuria and Gariahat returned to normal around noon.

A civic engineer said the sewer lines under seven thoroughfares were now silt-free, allowing rainwater to drain out quickly.

“Work along Nimtala Ghat Street, Beadon Street, Colootala Street and Canning Street has been completed. That has helped in significantly reducing waterlogging in the north,” he said.

Rajib Deb, mayor-in-council of drainage and sewerage, was a happy man. “Places infamous for waterlogging did not see stagnant water on Wednesday,” he said.

Although it rained from Tuesday till Wednesday evening, the heavier bursts were staggered. That allowed the cleaned sewers to absorb the pressure.

Till 5.30pm, the city had received 86mm of rain in 24 hours.

A text message doing the rounds summed up the mood of a city that has had little rain this monsoon: “The rain god is definitely a sales guy…desperate to meet targets just before the season ends!”