Delay in payments for pump repairs a major factor

With several ageing sewage pumps on the verge of a breakdown and the Kerala Water Authority delaying payments for repairs, the piped sewage-disposal system in the city has reached a stage that can only be described as “touch-and-go.”

In some pump houses, if the main pump breaks down, there is no spare to take over. KWA sources told The Hindu that if at all any pumps were being repaired, only the negotiating skills of the engineers need be thanked, as those who took up the work were reluctant to do so in view of the delayed payments.

At the old pump house at the Kuriyathy sewerage station, for instance, the two pumps has been beyond repair for a long time. Only now has the file for their replacement through a possible NABARD scheme reached the office of the Chief Engineer (South). It is anybody's guess when the new pumps will be installed.

At the new pump house at the station, things are only marginally different. The engineers who have worked at this facility told The Hindu that the pumps did not work to their rated capacity, which has a telling effect on the lifting of sewage from this pivotal facility. Moreover, these pumps consumed oil that cost about Rs.50,000 a month. Here too, the engineers rely on their pleading skills with the oil supplier.

At the Mudavanmugal and the Thaliyal pump houses, each of which has two pumps, only one is in working condition. An engineer said the authority had readied a tender for buying two pumps for these facilities.

The pumps at the sewage lifting stations sustain heavy damage daily. “These pumps are designed only to move sewage. The number of solid objects, including animal parts, that get dumped into manholes from illegal slaughterhouses and make their way into the sewerage stations is unbelievable. Many such objects get past the filters and damage the impellors of the pumps,” an engineer said.

The nearly six-month backlog in payments to those who repair the pumps has only worsened the situation. Many field engineers lamented that the KWA top brass are quick to demand that any repair be set right at once but are agonisingly slow in clearing the payments.

A day's robust rain can dramatically increase the load on the sewerage, as thousands of houses let rainwater into the network. “On such a day, the network may cross the tipping point,” a field engineer said. “It is a miracle that this hasn't happened yet.”