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Southeast Delhi residents fearful of heavy rains causing recurrence of sewage backflow into homes | Latest News Delhi

Southeast Delhi residents fearful of heavy rains causing recurrence of sewage backflow into homes | Latest News Delhi

New Delhi

Workers clean the Taimoor Nagar drain, with encroachments on both sides narrowing the width at multiple points. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

As a sudden downpour once again crippled the infrastructure in the Capital last week, a kilometre-long stretch of the Taimoor Nagar drain became the single source of torment for residents of thousands of houses across south and southeast Delhi, pushing sewage-mixed water into homes and causing irreparable damage.

The problem was particularly acute in Maharani Bagh and Friends Colony, where the damage included wooden flooring, documents, paintings, and furniture.

Flooding in this drain is a notorious annual phenomenon, and the severity of the rain last Friday — Delhi recorded 228mm of rainfall in 24 hours — proved that little had been done to tackle the problem by Delhi government agencies such as the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB); the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD); and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

Experts stressed that the impact of the overflowing drain could have been partially addressed if civic authorities had been more proactive in dealing with four choke points that have been created over the years due to a variety of issues ranging from unbridled waste-dumping to structural deficiencies.

Anjali Singh, 82, a resident of Block G in Maharani Bagh, woke up on Friday to her house filled with wastewater.

“All of our furniture and the Persian carpets were drenched in the water flowing back from the drains. We had to hire 11 workers and borrow bricks from a construction site to raise the level of the furniture. We suffered heavy losses. We have been raising the issue of imminent flooding in the colony for the past three months but no one paid heed,” she said.

Triveni Mahajan, secretary of the Friends Colony residents’ welfare association (RWA), said: “Houses in Friends Colony were flooded in just a couple of hours of rain. The rainwater nallah flowing through the colony was supposed to carry the water through, but with illegal constructions in Taimoor Nagar, constant diversion of sewage into this nallah and constriction on DDA (Delhi Development Authority) land where the nallah meets the river have created a situation of backflow and flooding.”

She said that for residents of the colony, classified as a Grade A area, the monsoon is now an anxious time. “MCD, DJB and DDA have failed us. No authority cares about solving this issue. It is just a blame game,” she said.

Apprehensive of what the rain might bring, on June 25, the residents wrote to Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena to voice their fears.

“Taimoor Nagar drain gets narrowed and constricted due to unauthorised construction on DDA land prior to it entering Yamuna…Last monsoon, sandbags had been put on this DDA land, causing flooding in Maharani Bagh, Friends Colony and Sriniwaspuri,”the RWA said in the letter.

Three days later, their worst fears came true.

The drainage network

Drains from colonies in southeast Delhi converge at Eastern Avenue Road, near Gate 5 of Maharani Bagh. The drain, through its opening stretch, is 20 to 30 feet wide, but dumped garbage and encroachments have reduced its width to around five feet at several points along its course. This turns the outfall of the drain at Yamuna floodplains into a choke point, leading to water backflowing in the colonies.

The problem is at its gravest in a narrow lane off the arterial Eastern Avenue Road, parallel to Mathura Road.

Here, the open drain, locally known as “nullah road”, runs alongside Taimoor Nagar, which is made up of an urban village on one side and two slum clusters on the other. Smaller drains from areas as far as Sriniwaspuri, Garhi, Kalindi, New Friends Colony, and Friends Colony West and East empty here, and the water is expected to flow directly into the Yamuna.

But since the drain is unable to accommodate a huge volume of water, especially during heavy rainfall, sewage backflow in residential colonies in the vicinity becomes inevitable as there is nowhere for the excess water to go but out on the roads, and into homes.

MCD has been undertaking work to “streamline” the drains near Eastern Avenue Road, but the work could not be completed before monsoon. On Saturday, the LG too inspected the drain with other senior officials, finding it choked by huge silt deposits and garbage that prevented the water from flowing out. He issued a series of directions to clear the obstructions in the next few days.

During a spot check on Monday, HT found one excavator streamlining the accumulated mounds of silt to create a clear passage in the first 50m stretch of the drain. However, several parts of the “outfall drain”, a lifeline for the drainage system of this part of Delhi, were still completely covered by a thick layer of plastic bags, floating containers and domestic waste bundled in bags, which defied the claims of monsoon preparedness.

People living along the drain could be seen throwing plastic bags filled with domestic waste in the drain. These locals have also raised barriers to ensure that the sewage-rainwater mix does not enter their homes, and the black muck and silt could still be seen covering all of the nullah road.

Mohammad Rehan, a resident, said that there was waist-deep water on the ground floor following the rain. “They have been playing around with excavators over the past four months, dumping silt from one point to another, but the drain has not been cleared. This activity has only started after a senior official visited last weekend, but we are still anxious,” he said.

Passing the buck

Chitra S Jain, general secretary of the New Friends Colony RWA (Ashoka Park), said the drainage system in the area faces two key issues. “A section of NFC has a drain outfall in this drain via Ashoka Park and there is a gradient problem with the outfall point at a lower level than the drain. Last Saturday, we met the LG, MP and minister of state (Harsh Malhotra) and raised the issue. We were also told that a water pipeline further constricts the drain passage, besides heavy encroachments on either side of the drain,” she said.

During the spot check, HT noticed that the erstwhile South MCD constructed a barrier around the drain in 2017 to prevent locals from throwing garbage in the drain, but it did little to stop the issue.

Even now, agencies continued to pass the buck.

An MCD official, asking not to be named, said the civic body was undertaking cleaning of the initial section of the drain but the last stretch of the Taimoor Nagar drain, including the outflow point, comes under DDA.

In a separate statement to HT’s query, the MCD said: “To clear the garbage dump and desilting the Taimoor Nagar drain, we deployed a long excavator. Desilting is essential to stop waterlogging in upstream colonies like Maharani Bagh and Friends Colony… We took major action downstream, at the end, by removing the diversion blockade done by DJB for trapping drainwater for sewage treatment. We’ll widen the narrow section just upstream of the Khizarabad culvert. With this, we expect no further waterlogging due to the Taimoor Nagar drain.”

Rajpal, the area councillor, said annual flooding due to the Taimoor Nagar drain backflow started eight years ago, and admitted that the problem has become much worse over the past few years. “Jhuggis have been mushrooming, making the drain very narrow at so many points. How can such a massive volume of water pass through a five-foot passage? The outfall point near Yamuna comes under the DDA and the only permanent solution is to remove the encroachments,” he said.

A spokesperson for the DDA said they will get the facts checked and place it before the competent authority.

Dr S Velmurugan, chief scientist and head of traffic engineering and safety division of Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), who is also a resident of the CRRI staff quarters near Maharani Bagh, said that large swathes of his localty are low-lying areas and a thorough overhaul of the drainage system is needed to solve the problem of the annual flooding.

“The gradient of drains will need to be reworked, a rainwater harvesting system will be needed with large pits and stormwater drainage systems should be separated from sewer lines,” he said.“There is no quick fix. It needs a complete overhaul!”

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