BHUBANESWAR: People of Bhubaneswar must have never imagined that the city situated at a height will ever get flooded. But the city no longer has this security shield. Even with little rain, low-lying areas get flooded with neck-deep water. With the onset of monsoon, people in these areas are spending sleepless nights as they fear water might enter their homes once the skies open up.
The situation has come to such a passe because all the 10 natural drains that pass through the city have been choked by silt, garbage and building waste, while at many places these has been encroached upon by unplanned construction.
Waking up to the crisis, the state government has decided to restore the 10 natural drains that have been choked by unfettered urban growth. But the restoration is going on at a snail's pace. Besides, desiltation is yet to be started by the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Prabir Das, an advocate residing behind the Saheed Nagar police station, had no option but to clean the drain in front of his house. "The rains have just started and the drain water was almost at my doorstep. I am worried about the situation in the days to come. We have informed all authorities concerned but nothing has been done, including desilting of drains by the BMC. It is the drain no. 4 that causes deluge-like situation in Acharya Vihar and Jaydev Vihar areas."
"The blame has to be shared equally by the regulatory authorities and people who built their houses and buildings over the natural drains flouting norms. The encroachers on these drains will be evicted with the help of BMC, BDA and GA department. Even many water-holding bodies in the city vanished because of encroachment/closure leading to heavy outflow of rainwater," said a senior official in drainage division said.
But Bhubaneswar Mayor Ananta Narayan Jena sounded optimistic about the city escaping. He said, "We are better prepared this time. Desilting of several drains is almost over and in many areas work is going on. We are hopeful that before any major rain we would complete the work. Besides, we are ready with motor pumps to drain out water from low-lying areas."
The state government in 2006 had asked the drainage division to restore drains no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) and the work has already started.
Pradip Duria, engineer-in-charge of the four natural drains said, "We have taken up the restoration work in government land around the drains and for private lands we have written to the Khurda collector. We have tried our best to clear all congestions in the four drains so that no flood-like situation takes place this year.
sHowever, one patch near Madhusudan Nagar, which is under the control of a private party and High Court has put a stay over it, could not be cleared."
However, the congestion of drains at Mancheswar, Cuttack Road, Chintamaniswar, Jharpada and Old Town areas are main areas of concern in the rainy season.