Sunday, May 17, 2015

Of clogged jhoras and unpreparedness

The months of March, April and May usually witness numerous cleanliness drives along the jhoras and drains across the state. But this year, such drives have been few and far between. The unseasonal daily downpours coupled with the Nepal earthquake could perhaps be the reason behind social organisations and concerned authorities not being able to undertake such activities in the state. Around this time last year, the newspapers were flooded with news of cleanliness drives, but this year there have not been too many such news appearing in the papers.  
The wet weather has exposed the wretched condition of the drainage systems in and around Gangtok which are either clogged with garbage and assorted debris or have suffered damages especially in the lower parts of Gangtok. Besides damaging crops and vegetables, the untimely rains have also hit drinking water supplies in and around the capital much before the monsoon actually arrives in the State.

One thing that has to be noted here is that after the formation of Gangtok Municipal Corporation and consistent efforts of UD&HD safai karamcharis and officials, conditions in the capital and its surrounding areas have improved substantially. However, despite signboards with warnings and dustbins at every corner, people continue to throw garbage into the jhoras. It may be recalled that in an attempt to discourage dumping of garbage in jhoras across the capital, the GMC in March 2011 had installed CCTV cameras at relevant vantage points across the town. It was told that those caught in the act by these surveillance cameras, supposedly even equipped with night vision, will be identified, publicly exposed and fined. But, if I am not mistaken, no one has been so shamed, and all the CCTV cameras have since vanished from the installation sites.
At one time, the ‘enforcers’ were so excited about their jobs to ensure that no one dumped in the jhoras that in one of their early morning surprise ‘raids’ along the highway, they detained everyone they found with a garbage bag or a dustbin – even those ‘law-abiding’ ones who were waiting with their garbage for the UD&HD collection truck to arrive! A substantial number of Gangtok’s domestic helps were lined up in the Court that day and released after paying a fine. But those days are past, the signboards are peeling away and jhora cleaning drives appear to have lost their appeal.
Meanwhile, the drainage problem persists not only in the urban areas, but poses danger in the rural areas too. Most of the rural roads under PMGSY remain incomplete. Majority of them do not have proper drains and culverts. Those residing below such roads alignments live in constant fear of mud slips, landslides and even of shooting boulders.
Last week’s coordination meeting chaired by LR&DM Department Secretary, Tsegyal Tashi pointed in the right direction when participants were urged to focus on mitigating the level of disaster with proper coordination, cooperation and effective working mechanism as and when disaster hits the state. Then again, there is also the Municipal and Nagar Panchayats election coming up which might probably happen during peak monsoon season. If it does, then a majority of the state's functionaries will be busy in the elections and with no municipal body in the interim period, a disaster might pose a real challenge for the administration as well as the public.

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