Friday, May 30, 2008

Down the drain

Down the drain
Pre-monsoon showers herald a season of misery for Puttenahalli residents. With construction debris choking drains and encroachments making matters worse, the area is now a stinking Venice. R Krishnakumar navigates the troubled waters

Bangalore: For residents of Ashtalakshmi Layout in JP Nagar 6th Phase, Wednesday’s rain — though moderate compared to previous years — was a grim indicator of what to look forward to in the coming monsoon. A spell of afternoon showers on Wednesday did enough damage in this low-lying area, off Puttenahalli lake.
Shridhar and his family were busy clearing water from their house, as late as 1 pm on Thursday. “There are no functioning drains on this road. All it takes is a brief shower for the area to get flooded,’’ he said. Stones and sand, that have been thrown into the drains during construction of buildings, have blocked drains, the residents said. Added to this, as old drains from the lake are encroached upon, water from the lake enters the narrow drains during showers and floods lowlying areas, the residents said.
Puttenahalli has always been in the news for the wrong reasons — massive flooding and inundation of houses during rain. At least four feet of water stagnates on the road for days together after rain as the area lacks underground drainage system. The problem is worsened by blatant encroachment of primary drains by residents. Though, after last year’s rain, the civic authorities took up major demolition operations and cleaned up Puttenahalli lake, four inner roads still face the wrath of the rain.
Water sumps in some houses were also flooded. Residents dread the damage that a full-force monsoon could bring to the area. “Our toilets are blocked. The stench makes it impossible to even clear the water,’’ said Pankaja, a resident.
The sight outside his house is not something that brings cheer. Even as drains carry filth right in front of the houses, construction material is dumped dangerously close to the drains. The residents pointed out that concrete and stones had blocked the floodwater’s flow on Wednesday.
Sewerage-mixed drain water is another issue residents of low-lying areas in JP Nagar 6th and 7th Phases have been fighting for long. “Sanitary lines are running into open drains, leaving the entire area stinking. The problem has been around for over a year but there’s still no respite for us,’’ said Dinesh Reddy, a resident of 7th Phase, bordering Ashtalakshmi Layout.
Memories from previous monsoons are enough for residents to put emergency measures in place. But these not enough for low-lying areas surrounded by open, brimming drains. Renukamma, a resident, said she and her family had been working through the night to clear water that had entered her house. The family of nine lives in a small, two-room house with low floors.
The stormwater drain department is working on a detailed project to bring the drain network back on track in Puttenahalli. Clearance of small reaches from the lake is already on. Last year, we took up a demolition drive to clear encroachments. Some of the offenders, though, have moved court anticipating demolition, slowing down our crackdown. The issue of sewerage-mixed drain water will also be checked under the project.
— Nazeer Ahmed Khan
While some drains are encroached upon, others have been converted into roads. Through the demolition drive, we had evicted some encroachers. The solution is to lay wide, underground drains in the area.
— M A Sadiq
Monsoon showers hit Ashtalakshmi Layout hard in previous years as well. Residents were left negotiating four feet of water on the road for about a week. With a lack of outlets to channel excess water, officials explored options of stormwater drains beneath existing roads. Two roads were identified for the project. The roads were tipped to be laid from the weir of Sarakki lake and its sluice gate. The plan was to link drains underneath 3 km of roads to the primary drain at Bilekahalli on Bannerghatta Road. BBMP sources say the work is now being undertaken by the stormwater drain department on a budget of Rs 30 crore.
After the 2005 flooding of areas in South Bangalore, a survey carried out by the land encroachment eviction committee highlighted that rajakaluves of 29 tanks, including Begur, Sarakki, Puttenahalli, Madiwala, Agara, Bellandur and Nagawara were blocked by more than 700 unauthorized constructions. The primary valley of Puttenahalli lake was found encroached upon by 28 buildings.


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