Every day, Chennai Metrowater receives an average of 90 complaints. When the northeast monsoon sets in next month, this number is bound to go up.
As a precursor to the monsoon, some areas in the city have already begun experiencing sewage-related problems.
For the past few days, people passing through West Mada Church Street, Royapuram, have to put up with the vile stench of stagnant sewage on the road.
Mahesh Kumar, a resident of the locality, said sewage overflowed on the road frequently and that it was hazardous to people’s health. Though several complaints had been made, no action has been taken.
Parts of Taramani and Broadway too, are experiencing sewage-related problems. Residents of Purasawalkam said sewage spillage in Sundaram Street and lane and Subramaniam Street is a recurring problem. P. Devika, a resident, said: “The problem is resolved whenever complaints are made. But the solutions are only temporary and the problems continue to occur. We put up with overflowing sewage at least once in 10 days.” Stagnant sewage also leads to breeding of mosquitoes and some residents have fallen ill, she added.
Residents want desilting machines to be used more frequently to clear sewage blocks and old sewage pipes to be replaced.
Last month, Metrowater received nearly 3,070 complaints and of these, about 1,300 pertained to sewage issues. Metrowater officials said about 50 per cent of the calls made to the helpline were enquiries, including about payment of taxes and charges. The other calls were complaints about erratic water supply, paid water supply and sewage problems.
To address complaints during the monsoon, in two months, Metrowater will implement a system to monitor the operation of sewage pumping stations. This monitoring, through a mobile phone application, will make nearly 500 officials more accountable.
The mobile application will help observe sewage levels in pumping wells to determine whether the facilities are being operated around the clock. If there is a backlog, it could mean that the stations were not being operated, and this could lead to sewage overflow.
On an average, every pumping station receives a sewage load of between one million litres to nine million litres daily (mld). Nearly 500 mld is pumped by these facilities across the city to treatment plants. During the rainy season, many stations receive an additional load of 30-40 percent.
As part of the Rs. 55 lakh project, an employee in each station will take photographs of the scale of the wells, indicating the levels pumped out, on a GPS-enabled mobile phone at regular intervals. The images will be tagged to a map with a GIS interface, which will be monitored by Metrowater officials online. The GIS map will be colour-coded, to comprehend the well levels. For instance, red could be used to indicate that the sewage has accumulated or yellow if there are no images.
The water agency is in the process of implementing the mobile governance system in 160 of the 196 pumping stations outsourced for operation and maintenance. Mini pumping stations have been left out of the project.