Illegal constructions hinder BMC's efforts to prevent monsoon drainage mishaps

The municipal corporation has so far maintained complete silence on removing encroachments and stopping construction activities that have affected their carrying capacity over the years.
An aerial view of office of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.
An aerial view of office of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.(Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Bhubaneswar municipal corporation has taken up barricading work of main drains at vulnerable points to prevent mishaps and fatalities during monsoon, its failure in making the stormwater channels free from encroachments and unauthorised construction work has posed a huge challenge in dealing with the issue.

The civic body has started the barricading work on a war-footing after a 10-year-old boy drowned in a stormwater channel at Unit III recently. However, it has so far maintained complete silence on removing encroachments and stopping construction activities that have affected their carrying capacity over the years.

Of the three lakh population residing in 436 slums in the city, a sizeable chunk has been living right along the drains for decades. In fact, the natural drain no 5 at Unit-III, where the drowning incident took place on Tuesday this week, was being used by some the slum dwellers, especially scrap dealers, as a tunnel to commute from one side to another in Kharvel Nagar.

Apart from slum settlements, there are a number of localities including Chandrasekharpur, Nayapalli, Laxmi Sagar, Bomikhal, Forest Park, Old Town, etc., where the natural drains as well as sub-drains and internal drains have been encroached to a large extent.

For instance, drain no 1 that flows from near Chandaka Sanctuary to Budhinala covering a length of 5.7 km originally has a width of 14.3 metre in the comprehensive development plan (CDP). However, its width has now reduced to 3.5 to 9 metre. The drain passes through ward nos 13, 14, 8, 7, 6 and 3 and is said to have been encroached to a huge extend if one goes by the CDP.

Similarly, drain no 3 of 4.22 km in length, has now shrunk to around 2 to 8 metre from the original 9 metre, owing to urban expansion. It passes through ward nos 12, 17 and 11 as per the CDP.

A drainage wing official attributed the reduction in carrying capacity of drains to illegal constructions in violation of the 2010 CDP. Such encroachments have also increased risk of drainage-related mishaps, he said.

As it is, BMC has not been able to acquire 1,048 private plots as per its plan two to three years back for expansion and restoration of the stormwater/natural drains. Some corporators said it was due to some political compulsions which prevented the government from intensifying eviction drive to remove encroachments along the drains in the past.

Admitting to the large-scale encroachments and construction activities along the drains, BMC mayor Sulochana Das said the process is time-consuming and requires a huge amount of funds. “At least `2,000 crore fund will be required for rehabilitation as well as acquisition of private lands to restore all drains in the city. This is our primary estimation,” she said.

Municipal commissioner Rajesh Prabhakar Patil said drainage is a priority for the civic body and the eviction drive against encroachment would be expedited to check urban flooding and drainage mishaps.

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