The three American robots hired by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to clean the 70 km of British-era drains in the city are proving inefficient, civic officials have said. This is likely to affect the BMC’s plans for curbing monsoon flooding, officials added.
Officials of the Storm Water Drain (SWD) department said the robots, which have been in use for the past few months, are unable to clear silt, accumulated over the decades, with the speed expected of them. Engineers said the silt in most of the drains had hardened and it was difficult for the machines to break and remove it.
“These robots were hired to clear such drains to allow rainwater to recede faster. Before the robots, the drains were cleaned with suction pumps but they could not remove the silt completely. These mini-robots have 35 horsepower and are laced with a small drill to break the stagnant silt. In spite of this, the results are unsatisfactory,” an SWD department official told The Indian Express.
The BMC had two reasons for hiring robots — they are unaffected by the toxic gases harmful to humans that are present in such drains, and can enter narrow drains and railway culverts, which are difficult for people to reach.
The BMC is spending Rs 5 crore on cleaning the 70 kilometres of British-era drains from Byculla to Dadar. The remote controlled robots were hired last December, after former municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta asked civic officials to make a list of drains where robots can be used.
“We are preparing a report on the cleaning done by these robots. A decision to improve the functioning of the robot system will be taken after assessing the report,” added the official.
Of the 70 km of British-era drains in the city, at least 36 km are arch drains and 34 km are pipe drains, another official said. Most of these drains were checked with cameras.
The BMC has said they will finish all the pre-monsoon cleaning work by May 31. In a meeting with the new municipal commissioner, Praveen Pardeshi, SWD department officials said they have completed at least 70 per cent of nullah cleaning. Officials said at least 2.44 lakh tonne silt from major nullahs and 2.16 lakh tonne silt from minor nullah across the city has been removed.