A narrow lane just off Gurudwara Road in south Delhi leads to the heart of Taimoor Nagar, a Gurjar-dominated village near New Friends Colony. An open drain runs along the entire length of this village, choked with plastic, rags, vegetable peels and other waste.
The condition of the drain, however, wasn’t always like this. Hariram Singh, 82, remembers a time when the locality was a vast expanse of farmland with only a handful of families living here.
“At that time, the drain was always clean. It used to be dry through the year and only filled up during the monsoon. The water wasn’t filthy,” he recalls.
Singh has not only seen the formerly sparsely-populated area become home to almost 10,000 people but has also noticed a marked change in the lifestyle and background of residents. With schools coming up in the area, people have received formal education and moved from farming to jobs in the private sector.
The condition of the drain that runs right outside his doorstep, however, has deteriorated significantly. “The drainwater comes from other areas, filled with garbage, and passes through our village before flowing into the Yamuna. People who live here also throw garbage in it,” he says.
The drain has also emerged as the symbol of some kind of a class divide. On one side of the drain stand three or four-storey buildings in which the more privileged residents reside. On the other side is a cluster of small and single-storey houses. The two sides are connected by a narrow bridge, barely visible amid the garbage.
The drain has increasingly become a source of concern for local residents since it attracts flies and mosquitoes, which spread diseases. Residents say the children here fall sick often. During monsoon, garbage flows inside their houses, emitting an odour that is “unbearable”.
“The garbage collectors don’t come to this area and the dumpsters are on the main roads. Most of us throw our garbage in the drain,” says a resident.
Councillor of Zakir Nagar ward, Shoaeb Danish, claims a long-term solution to the problem is in the works. “We are planning to construct a boundary wall along the drain to prevent people from throwing garbage into it,” he said.