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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Patna Corporation admitted it failed, told HC before rains: ‘Functioning in primitive way’

From September 28 to October 1, Patna received about 400 mm of rainfall. With all 39 sump houses remaining non-functional till October 1, at least 60 per cent of Patna faced water-logging.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: October 14, 2019 6:53:54 am
Bihar rains, Patna rains, Patna floods, Bihar floods, Patna Municipal Corporation, PMC, Patna High Court, Nitish Kumar From September 28 to October 1, Patna received about 400 mm of rainfall. (File Photo)

* “Any modern city requires four basic infrastructure systems in place to function efficiently — drinking water supply system, storm water drainage system, sewage system and sewerage network system, and solid waste management system. Patna Municipal Corporation has failed on all four parameters.”

* “The city has silently seen simultaneous growth of unregulated construction and uncontrolled slums within and outside the city. In fact, the lack of proper planning has made the modern city of Patna a difficult place to live in.”

* “The corporation in recent times has been in complete defunct status both functionally and institutionally and there has not been a serious attempt to revamp the situation. There is no work culture among the staff because of a poor HR system…”

Barely three months before parts of Bihar’s capital city went under for days in the worst case of water-logging recorded since the floods of 1975, the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) had displayed unusual honesty. And admitted in the Patna High Court in a counter-affidavit that it “squarely failed”.

The counter-affidavit was filed by PMC’s Additional Municipal Commissioner (Establishment) Devendra Prasad Tiwary on behalf of the Commissioner in compliance with a court order of July 9. The court is hearing pleas against illegal encroachment, vending and related problems of sewerage and waste management in Patna — the Chief Justice will hear the matter again next week.

Read | Bihar: Angry with waterlogging and piling of garbage, people gherao Sushil Modi’s house

From September 28 to October 1, Patna received about 400 mm of rainfall. With all 39 sump houses remaining non-functional till October 1, at least 60 per cent of Patna faced water-logging. At low-lying areas, water-logging lasted for 10 days, with rescuers evacuating Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi and his family from Rajendra Nagar.

The Urban Development Ministry has blamed the PMC and the state’s urban planning body, Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (BUIDCO), for the situation. The PMC’s counter-affidavit shows why.

In its submission, including booklets and annexures, the corporation described Patna as a “problematic city” that is suffering from a “false urban memory syndrome” in which there is “reverence for old times and scorn to the new”.

“If the city of Patna has to protect itself from becoming a dead city, it has to come out from such (a) syndrome and work towards better urban planning and development with a professional and no-nonsense attitude,” the PMC stated in a section on its response on civic challenges.

The PMC, which governs an area of 109 sq km including most of the capital, pointed out that Patna is “part of floodplains of Ganges and has a monotonously flat relief with a saucer-shaped topography and a slope in the southern direction” (including Rajendra Nagar).

Read | Bihar floods: BJP MP falls into water as boat overturns during survey

In an annexure titled “Whither the city of Patna?”, the PMC stated that the topography triggers acute water-logging in the absence of a “planned drainage system”. It said that “unorganised settlements and unplanned developmental activities” have added to the problem.

“The corporation has failed in providing essential services to the city and it has squarely failed in regulating the unplanned construction and uncontrolled growth of slums,” it said. The affidavit acknowledged that the PMC was “not at all prepared to take on urban challenges being faced by modern cities across the globe”.

It said that the storm water drainage system had “never been developed in a systematic manner”. “There is no separate lines for drainage and sewerage and most of the main drain lines are nothing but big kuchha nalas (non-brick and unplastered drains). These big and also small nalas are always filled with garbage thrown by local people and many of them have also built their houses on the nalas,” said the PMC.

Pointing out that 225 MLD sewage is generated in the city per day, half of which flows into the Ganga and remaining into ground water, the PMC stated: “Main problem is the sewage network system as only 20 per cent households are connected with the network and 50 MLD sewerage reaches up to STPs (sewage treatment plants)… more than 80 per cent households have their own septic tanks or open discharge which itself is a threat to heath and sanitation.”

Blaming “institutional failure” for the situation, the PMC told court that its “fourth grade sanitary workers have been exploited in the system and are poorly paid”. “The corporation is miles away from digitisation and has been functioning in a primitive way. The billion dollar corporation properties have been encroached,” it claimed.

In its submission — its seventh supplementary counter-affidavit in the case of 2016 — the PMC stated that it has to “rise from (the) ashes like (a) phoenix” and put in place a ward-centric decentralised system with close monitoring by ward members.

Kishori Das, former state general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) who has filed an interlocutory plea after the PMC’s submission, told The Indian Express: “The PMC’s helplessness can be seen through its response. Civic agencies are engaging in a blame game, and we are looking at the court to find a workable solution.” Das currently heads the Vanchit Samaj Morcha.

When contacted, PMC Commissioner Amit Kumar Pandey said: “We have taken up a number of measures to improve the drainage system. It is a cumulative effort with other agencies. Right now, we are tackling the challenges of water-logging. Certain measures are being discussed but cannot be revealed at this stage.”

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