Red tapism adds to woes of MKB Nagar

A sample of the contaminated water that was pumped out of the metro pump in MKB Nagar. PC- Avanish Chandrasekaran

Avanish Chandrasekaran

CHENNAI, NOV 17: Incessant rains from the last week of October to the first week of November brought back nightmares to the residents of the Mahakavi Bharathiyar Nagar (MKB Nagar) which was inundated by the 2015 floods.

However it was a close shave this time. And although the rains have stopped, the woes of the residents are far from over.The area gets water-logged even with minimal showers.

Residing on the ground floor of a two floored house, Sumathi says that all the wooden furniture was rendered unusable by the water. The water has receded, but the floors are dotted with massive black blotches- proof of the chaos brought about by the stagnant water.

The house of Sumathi (right), a resident of MKB Nagar’s 14th Cross Street, was watterlogged to the knee during the rains that came in late October-early November this year. PC- Avanish Chandrasekaran

“The authorities do nothing. We are left on our own. Some two weeks ago, we had knee deep water all over the place. It was stinking, and my feet got swollen,” she says, while pointing to her feet, darkened by the mixture of sewage and rain water.

Sumathi opens the lid to a sump, and points to sewage that has mixed with the water, with flies hovering over it, making it easy starting points for the onset of malaria and dengue.

A sump in Sumathi’s house filled with drainage. PC- Avanish Chandrasekaran

“We don’t receive clean water either,” says Sumathi as she pumps water from the metro pump. The water has a  distinct yellowish tinge and an unusual smell.

“The authorities do nothing. We are left on our own,” she adds.

The residential welfare association members, for their part, are unable to reach an understanding with authorities from the Greater Chennai Corporation or the government.

“Every two to three years, the Corporation raises the road levels in these areas by three inches. This lowers the level of the houses, and allows the sewage and rainwater to flow down into the houses,” says V. Thulasiraman, Secretary of the MKB Nagar West Resident Welfare Association.

The situation worsened with the 2015 floods.

“Following the floods, we asked the Corporation to immediately lower the roads by three inches. They responded by merely scratching the surfaces with milling machines,” Thulasiraman says.

“We have been sending them reminders for the past two years, but now they are actually denying that we even made a request,” he adds.

Thulasiraman is now contemplating on filing an RTI application with the Corporation, to prove that the association had made the request.

Normalcy returning to MKB Nagar, following a period of chaotic rains. PC- Avanish Chandrasekaran

When the area was experiencing massive water logging , Thulasiraman states that the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board was not regular in sending help to the residents.

‘Though they perform better than the Corporation, they do not come voluntarily. Only after repeated calls, do they respond and work,” he says.

Thulasiraman also says that the issue of unclean metro water would be resolved only when the metro pipelines are replaced and cleaned up. “Along with the pipelines, they need to invest in a new motor for pumping water. But they are strapped of funds.” He also says that the Corporation is not replacing the 9 inch sewage pipelines, first installed in 1981-82, with 16 inch pipelines.

Deivamani, President of the Artisan Resident Welfare Association, has been a resident of MKB Nagar since 1980. Like Thulasiraman, he too laments the faultiness of the sewage pipelines.

“The Corporation is not making changes in structure in tandem with the growth in population. They haven’t replaced the 4 inch sewage pipes with pipes of a bigger dimension.”

“The pipes were laid in 1970. When I came in 1980, MKB Nagar came under the jurisdiction of the Housing Board. For more than 40 years, they haven’t been replaced or repaired, and are accumulating a lot of dirt. Same can be said of the metro water water pipelines,” he says. Deivamani adds that the Corporation has not taken into account the growth in population and the increase in housing area.

“The Corporation is not making changes in structure in tandem with the growth in population. They haven’t replaced the 4 inch sewage pipes with pipes of a bigger dimension,” he says, adding, “Whenever we make enquiries, they keep passing the buck. And there is a lack of funds, because zonal officers keep a large share of those funds.”

Deivamani says that the Corporation is not desilting the rainwater canals under houses, causing metro water pumps difficulties in refining and pumping the water they receive. Residents receive unclean metro water as a result.

There is a glimmer of hope, Deivamani adds, in the form of Ramaswami, the area’s metro deputy engineer. “He himself plunges into manholes to assess situations. He makes repeated complaints but to no avail,” he says.

“All we are asking is that the pipelines be changed, so that disasters can be avoided,” Deivamani says.

Below is a video of Deivamani explaining the problems faced by the residents.

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