Each year, the Capital prepares for the challenges that the monsoon throws its way. Among the various issues — uprooted trees, traffic snarls and snapped power lines — is one which can be prevented months before the onset of the rains: water-logging. However, while desilting of drains is the key to addressing this issue, the sudden showers this past Thursday and the consequent water-logging has exposed the preparedness, or the lack of it, of the government agencies.

Last year, the Delhi High Court had asked the city’s civic agencies and other authorities to set up a proper mechanism to carry out desilting work. With less than a week to go for Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s June 15 deadline to complete the work, the various agencies are grappling with lack of sufficient staff, absence of technological equipment and basic coordination.

The three Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled municipal corporations maintain more than 700 drains in the city that have a width and depth of more than four feet. But the usual complaint from the civic bodies is that the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Congress-ruled Delhi Government does not clean the bigger drains. Unless the bigger drains are cleaned, cleaning the smaller ones does not help, they say.

Even though May 31 was set as the deadline for the desilting work, several councillors and residents complained that not more than 50 per cent of work has been completed. North Delhi Municipal Corporation Leader of Opposition and ward councillor from Dhirpur, Mukesh Goel, alleged that the machines used for desilting hardly work. “At present out of the two ‘Super Sucker’ machines only one is working and is shared by all the three civic bodies,” he said.

Others like South Corporation Central Zone Chairman Virender Kasana pointed to lack of sufficient funds for desilting work. “The BJP-ruled civic bodies have not allocated adequate funds like the Congress used to do when it ruled the erstwhile civic body,” he said.

Away from the blame-game played out at the civic body level, the PWD has for the first time taken to photographing the removal of silt from drains as proof that work is being done. Last year, the department took over all 60-foot-wide roads from the civic bodies and of the 899 roads under the PWD’s jurisdiction, 384 have been completely desilted, said PWD Director (Works) Ravi Mathur.

“In some areas, since drainage also enters into drains silt gets deposited. The capacity thus decreases causing problem when the rain comes,” he said, adding when the silt is removed it is left to dry near the drain for a few days before being transported to earmarked sites.

To find a long-term solution to the drainage problems, the Delhi Government’s Irrigation & Flood Control Department engaged IIT-Delhi last year to draw up a fresh Drainage Master Plan.

IIT-Delhi’s Department of Civil Engineering Professor A. K. Gosain said: “The desilting process adopted by the government agencies is flawed. It will only be effective if done through and through. Doing it in small patches will only create problems.”

Prof. Gosain, who heads the team working on the Master Plan, feels the process should be well thought of.

“Many times we find the silt deposited right next to the drain for days. As soon as it rains it is pushed back inside,” he said. “The technology is available for better deployment of the job.”

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