Wearing black jeans and a green shirt, 10-year-old Saeed is soaked from head to toe. It is raining early Sunday morning and he smells a quick buck. He is busy striking a deal with Gurgaon resident Bunty, who is peering over the bonnet of his white sedan. His vehicle has broken down after moving through a waterlogged stretch under the Pehladpur railway underbridge. Saeed claims he has the solution. “I’ll take Rs 20 to push the car out of the water,” says the diminutive boy. He brushes aside any incredulousness with a boast. “Of course I can push a car this big. I have done this every time this place gets waterlogged.”
On each side of the low-lying railway underbridge (RUB), vehicles, including DTC buses, come to halt as muddy brown water fills up the road under the railway line on the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road. The 11.6 km stretch — from Rajiv Gandhi Stadium bus stop to Batra Hospital — connects Delhi to Gurgaon and Faridabad. It is looked after by the Delhi government’s Public Works Department (PWD), which claims this is one of the most challenging roads to maintain.
As the downpour continues, the reasons for the PWD’s claim start to surface. One of the four manholes of the Delhi Jal Board’s (DJB’s) trunk sewer line adjoining the Pehladpur bridge begins to overflow minutes as the rain intensifies. Muddy water gushes out of the manhole with force after pushing aside its lid, almost like a fountain. Soon after, the area under the bridge is inundated and inaccessible to motorists.
The PWD’s rainwater deviating pump house is situated a few steps away from the bridge. It has seven pumps of varying capacities. “This is a low-lying area and the pump house can easily pump the water out if it were only rainwater. This, however, is water coming out of the DJB manholes that overflow when it rains,” says a PWD official.
“The overflow from these manholes invariably holds up traffic. After it stops raining, it takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half for the water to recede and traffic movement to ease. There are underground channels built from the area under the railway bridge that send the water into the nearly 20-ft sump connected to the pump house. The water that is pumped out is let into the Badarpur drain on the rear of the pump house,” says an official. “Although the road is maintained by the PWD, the PWD is not responsible for the waterlogging on it,” the official adds.
The sewage system in the area, like in several other parts of the city, is burdened with waste from unauthorised colonies that lack adequate drainage systems, say PWD officials. At the Pehladpur railway underbridge, the sewage from Indira Camp right up to Sangam Vihar, falls in the DJB sewers in the area, say officials.
The DJB feels the problem stems from the lack of storm water drains and that puts the entire burden of rainwater or the road surface run-off on the sewers. Water minister Kapil Mishra says the problem of overflowing of DJB manholes has persisted. A joint survey of the Pehladpur railway underbridge was undertaken by officers of the PWD, DJB and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi a fortnight ago. Prior to that, on July 19, DJB officials submitted a report to Mishra stating, “The only reason for overflow from the sewer line during monsoon is because of the storm water drainage system of MB (Mehrauli-Badarpur) Road connected into the sewer line near Ratia Marg, Sangam Vihar. In the absence of proper outfall of the storm water drainage system along MB Road, the waterlogging takes at Pul Pehladpur RUB which is the lowest point and is saucer shaped. For draining out the accumulated water from the RUB, Department of PWD has got a Storm Water Pump House constructed.”
According to DJB officials, no consensus could be arrived at after the joint inspection. In its report to Mishra, the DJB, however, wrote, “The long term solution to the problem is to ensure independent outfall of the storm water drainage system all along MB Road by the road maintaining agency and disconnect the local SW drains from the DJB sewerage system of MB Road which has to function independently. PWD has to disconnect the storm water drain outfall from the DJB trunk sewer system at the T-junction of Ratia Marg and MB Road.”
Maintenance of the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road is a challenge during monsoon, admit PWD officials, but say the department takes preparatory steps and undertakes repairs after monsoons. About eight maintenance vans of the PWD survey each division for repairs of potholes, pavements and kerb stones.
“Pothole repairs are undertaken on the spot. Bituminous emulsion and a stone aggregate are used to fill potholes. While it does not interrupt the flow of vehicles on the road, water takes a toll on it. So it can’t be done while it is still raining. Sometimes, kerb stones are dislodged, pavements are chipped by heavy rains, the maintenance vans restore them,” says a PWD official. While the surfacing of the Mehrauli- Badarpur Road was done in 2010 ahead of the Commonwealth Games, it has not been done since. According to PWD officials, the process of surfacing of the roads is done every five years to maintain quality. However, if micro-surfacing is carried out for sealing cracks before that, the next surfacing can be prolonged by up to three years. Officials says they are drawing up a list of roads that need surfacing, and work will be carried out after the monsoon and before winter.