The municipal board office in Hazaribagh. (Vishvendu Jaipuriar)
Around 200 people, including over a dozen women, were trapped in a flood-like situation inside Kali Mandir at Muktidham crematorium in Kheergaon on August 11, the last day of the holy Shravan, thanks to choked drains. Their seven-hour-long ordeal had come to an end when the rain stopped and water receded on its own.
The incident not only exposed the failure of Hazaribagh Municipal Corporation but also underlined the need to repair the age-old sewerage system of the town.
For the residents of Hazaribagh town, choked drains, submerged roads and garbage mounds are common features of urban life. The situation is more or less the same in almost all the 32 wards of the town where people are doomed to live in unhygienic conditions.
According to residents, most of the drains overflow round the year, forcing people to wade through waterlogged roads. And the monsoon only makes the situation worse. Localities like Okni, Shivpuri, Lohsigna and Shankarpur stand testimony to the pathetic civic conditions of the town.
Elderly people claimed that Hazaribagh was a very planned town with systematic drains. Over the years, they added, the surge in population and boom in real estate triggered encroachment, which, in turn, blocked most of the drains.
Mithilesh Sharma, a local businessman, said the municipal board was not the only one to be blamed for the current situation. “The drains were connected to two major canals — Kumartoli Nala and Kalibari Nala that carry sewage of the whole town. Over the years, people have built houses on these drains while the civic authorities seem to have turned blind. People have even encroached upon the main drainage canals, leading to inundation of major parts of the town,” he added.
Asked about the drainage problem, municipal board chairperson Anjali Kumari admitted to the pathetic condition of the town but hoped that the situation would improve very soon. She added that she had been to Ranchi last month to speak to the state urban development department officials about the problem.
“The department is readying a detailed project report for a sewage treatment plant at Kheergaon. Please wait for some time. It will be a big project worth Rs 150-200 crore,” she said.
However, the chairperson said the plan was at the very nascent stage and it would take some time to take a proper shape.
But according to sources, the plan includes not only revamp of the existing drainage system but also a full-fledged sewage treatment plant that will turn the filth into fertiliser. If the project is implemented, it will change the entire scenario, they added.