For quite a long spell this year, Manipur was reeling under an intense heat wave without any rains, the kind of which has not been seen earlier. The situation was long overdue given the nature of growing urbanization, depleting green cover, rising pollution levels and terrible civic sense with our tendency to litter places with plastic and plastic made materials. But what it also showed was that concerned Government authorities and departments do not have any strategic measures outlined for catering to the needs of an urbanized population. During that rainless period, the buzz was on the lack of drinking water even as private water carriers made a killing by hiking up their rates with no guarantee that the water they were giving to their customers was safe for drinking. The scrutiny over the water levels in the Singda dam has been forgotten and kept aside, now that short spells of rain have made its presence in parts of the state while bringing on another headache of water logging.
For all the talks of using foreign technologies of clearing siltation from rivers and unblocking drainages, not much action has happened on the ground. With the sewerage project yet to see the light of day, the piling up of garbage on roads and river banks have only aggravated the situation. There are a few private agencies operating garbage pick up services but without a holistic plan in place with regard to garbage disposal, these services have mostly ended up as being too little in terms of scope and reach, too inadequate in terms of service regularity and too inefficient in terms of making it work. Poor civic sense of the larger public has compounded the situation day by day. This last bit can be seen in the way private homesteads and individuals encroach upon public areas, thereby leaving narrower drains; people using roads and lanes as holding places for their construction materials which in turn lead to clogging up drains and usurping the space meant for public movement etc.
Many road stretches from Pishumthong to Keishamthong, the Uripok main area after the over-bridge and Nagampal area along with many other areas including the Secretariat area in Imphal West and in Imphal East are often inundated by flash floods brought on by water logging. While the initiative of the Government in widening the main roads of the town is note worthy, the spectacle of road side drains being raised much beyond the surface of the roads means that water logging stays on the main roads every time there is a downpour. Lost in the hoopla over widened roads, the powers that be have forgotten to put in drains in a manner that water even if it accumulates on the roads can seep down and flow its course. The basic idea of liquids flowing down from a higher level to a lower one has been turned around, by our learned engineers. It is not clear what purpose this serves but the after effects can be seen in almost all parts of Imphal in the aftermath of any rainfall burst.
Waterlogged areas with clogged drains does not really augur well for the hygiene and sanitation of people living around the said places. It can be a harbinger of diseases and water borne infections, not to mention the risk of contaminating water bodies and pipes carrying drinking water. Also, given the condition of most roads in Imphal with gaping potholes being a common hazard, the risks of accidents in places where water and slush has collected on roads is indeed heightened. But even as the concerned departments and Government authority seem to be unaffected with the water-logging and the flash flooding from drains on the roads and lanes, the common man too seems to be barely concerned beyond having to bother about how they will maneuver the roads they must commute in their day to day lives. If each household were to take the lead and responsibility in cleaning up the drains in their immediate surroundings and invest in water harvesting initiatives, the free fall of rain water and the amount of spill-over would be cut down in some measure. There can be no one single manner of addressing a seasonal occurrence such as water logging or flash flooding as an urban nuisance and characteristic. It tells us that along with the Government agencies, the common man will have to join in by giving more serious attention to the environment around him.
Leader Writer: Chitra Ahanthem