KOCHI: Kochi Corporation has for long been pilloried over the perennial woes of waterlogging. City dwellers were recently left aghast as stretches of MG Road got flooded with just an hour of downpour. Social media was merciless in ‘trolling’ the city authorities.
In a deviation from the usual apathy, this time, however, the corporation seems to have made an effort to analyse what’s been going wrong. One welcome decision is to “regularly clean” the drainage system on MG Road.
The cleaning drive, however, yet again raised a stinker that had often been ignored — waste dumping by eateries. In the first round, the corporation issued close-down notices to five eateries (Street Menu, Tamar, Sona, Thaal Kitchen, and Ceylon Hotel) for dumping waste into the drains, violating Solid Waste Management Rules.
“Such waste dumped on a daily basis clogs drains and leads to waterlogging,” says an official.
On Saturday, another five eateries came under the radar. “We have issued warning notices to Hotel Paris, Sultan Restaurant and Cafe, Sardarji Ka Dhaba, Punjabi cafe, and Chiyang restaurant for illegally dumping waste into the drainage,” says corporation health standing committee chairman T K Ashraf.
‘We have issued a deadline’
Rattled, the Kerala Hotels and Restaurants Associations (KHRA) have held a meeting with corporation officials, and sought time to find a lasting solution. “After holding talks with the KHRA members, it was decided to give the eateries operating under the corporation limits a time frame to adopt corrective steps,” says Corporation secretary Babu Abdul Khader.
“We have issued a deadline. All outlets have been told to set up temporary waste management facilities by November 8. And they have to figure out a permanent solution to treat solid waste by November 30. If they fail to do so, they will not be permitted to open; they may even lose their licences.” Officials say the inspection drive will be restarted on Wednesday to check if the notified restaurants have set up temporary waste management measures, as directed by the corporation.
“As per the rule, eateries are allowed to dispose of only treated water into the drainage,” explains a health department official. “They have to find a solution to manage solid waste if they want to retain their licences. When corporation workers recently opened the slabs covering the drainage in front of a few restaurants on the MG Road, they found thick solid waste clogging the drainage.”
‘Hold in political circles’
Corporation’s works standing committee chairperson Sunitha Dixon points out that this is not the first time restaurants have been caught violating rules.“The corporation has been spending crores of money cleaning the drainages before the rainy season, yet the waterlogging issue persists, especially on MG Road,” she says.
“It is not the first time the corporation has found that several eateries in the city dump waste directly into the drainage. During cleaning drives held in May and September, too, the situation was the same.”
Sunitha highlights that food waste was found in drains during those drives, but the corporation did not take any action. They were left off with just a warning, she adds.
“Restaurant owners have a strong hold in political circles and that gives them the confidence that nothing would happen even if they continue to violate the norms,” says Sunitha.
‘Trying to find a solution’
It has been two years since M Anilkumar took charge as the mayor of Kochi. Yet, he says, “We have been trying to find a solution to it (waterlogging). He adds that engineers have been asked to submit reports on the drains. “They have also been instructed to provide motor pumps at areas prone to flooding,” the mayor adds.
“For the past several months, review meetings have been held with the district administration, MP, MLA, and other development agencies to solve the issue.” Besides the issue of waste dumping, inspection of the drainage system on MG Road also revealed that there were unscientific slopes impeding the flow of waste water, says Anilkumar.
“A new design has been planned, and estimates are being prepared,” he adds. “The work will begin after the rainy season. Until then, regular cleaning will be done.”On the halting of Mullassery Canal renovation, which is expected to resolve the waterlogging issue to a great extent, Anilkumar says an age-old sewage pipe of the Kerala Water Authority passes through it. “Unless the KWA replaces the pipe, the irrigation department cannot move ahead with the work,” adds the mayor. Here we go again!