S. Baby and her neighbours in Kasturi Garden, near Sundarapuram off the Madukkarai Main Road, prefer to defecate in the open. The women do so before dawn or after dusk.
“We are left with no choice because the sewers that connect the toilets to the drainage system are choked. The waste does not drain out. The waste remains either in the choke pit or flows back into the toilet,” the woman complains.
The women and also the men of the area, therefore, have been defecating in the open for the past several years. They say that the toilets the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board constructed are of no use.
But a few people who stay on the same street as Ms. Baby and her friends choose to use the toilet. And it does get chocked. Left with no option, the women clean the stagnant human waste and sewage — the work, they do in a few wards in the South Zone for a living as conservancy workers on contract with the Coimbatore Corporation.
The other residents of the 600-house residential locality let out the waste from the toilets onto the open drain that is actually supposed to carry rainwater or water from kitchen and bathroom.
There is no other go, argues A. Maimoon, a resident of nine years. The water from the drain in Kasturi Garden reaches the Meen Pallam, a natural drain that carries sewage. The residents have been living in such a poor civic condition ever since the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board let the people occupy the houses about nine years ago. As part of the housing project for people below poverty line, the Board had constructed four septic tanks to collect the waste from toilets. But today, the tanks remain in disuse. And the tanks remain in disuse because the residents let out the sewage onto the open drain.
The Corporation must help the residents by providing proper sewerage system — an underground drainage system, demands M.E. Nasar also a resident. The civic body must also improve water supply in the area — the residents get drinking water and groundwater in a pipeline and that affects the quality of the former.
South Zone Chairman M. Perumalsamy says that though the civic body cannot take over the maintenance of Kasturi Garden as the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board has not handed over the same, he has raised the issue in the Corporation Council to find a remedy.
Sources in the Corporation say that the Board ought to have handed over the Garden to the Corporation within a year of completing the project. After nine years, the Board can handover only if it pays the maintenance fee to the Corporation.
Sources in the Board say that they have handed over the maintenance of the Kasturi Garden to the then Kurichi Municipality, which became a part of the Coimbatore Corporation. But the sources concede that they do not have the necessary papers to prove that the Board has done so.
The sources add that the residents are to be blamed for the choked sewage because, they have gone in for additional construction by encroaching upon the space where the Board had laid the sewage pipes. Having destroyed the sewerage system, it is unfair to blame the Board for poor infrastructure.