Sewage intrudes on SWD work on a section of Dr Ranga Road; residents angry over frequent breakdown of utility services

September 10, 2022 10:33 pm | Updated September 11, 2022 09:42 am IST

Sewage flows freely in a stormwater drain trench on Dr Ranga Road 

Sewage flows freely in a stormwater drain trench on Dr Ranga Road  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

2.29 p.m., September 9: A worker tries to stanch the flow of sewage with a sandbag, and the fledgling effort proves futile. The gush appears relatively new, and is adding to the sewage that has already settled down in a long stormwater drain trench on Dr Ranga Road. For the past few days, sewage has been showing up at SWD trenches and in residents’ drinking water supplies.

This new ‘accident’ occurred near the junction of Dr Ranga Road and Abhiramapuram First Street — for easy recall, near the Vinayakar temple — where Greater Chennai Corporation’s SWD work moves crabwise — transversely — causing a deep gash across the road.

The newly-constructed stormwater drain network on CP Ramaswamy Salai would cross over at the Bheemana Garden Street junction and meet the one at Dr Ranga Road on the side where CMWSSB’s Area IX office is located. To link arms with the SWD network on CP Ramaswamy Salai, the work on Dr Ranga Road has had to make that diagonal move near the Vinayakar temple.

While residents do not argue with the contours the SWD network on Dr Ranga Road assumes, they do not seem inclined to suffer in silence any unbearable intrusions it makes into essential services.

Now, take in the breaking news that surfaced around 6.30 p.m. the same day. Images shared by a resident of Dr Ranga Road (who requested their name to be withheld from this report) show the sandbag manoeuvre had conclusively failed. The trench had drunk more sewage.

CR Ashok, a resident of Aswarya apartment, located further down Dr Ranga Road, has witnessed his section of the road undergo a breakdown of utility services, in what now seems long ago, but in truth only 2.5 months ago. He seems to advocate a degree of stoicism in dealing with inconveniences provided they do not spiral out of manageable proportions.

Says Ashok: “When they break and dig (as part of SWD work), drainage lines to houses may get disconnected. The piping would have to be redone. We had also had our brush with sewage leakage when SWDs were being laid on our section. We got our drinking water supply tested, and finding it contaminated, we stopped using it for a few days. While these disruptions seem par for the course, the extent of disruption matters. I do not know why the section of Dr Ranga Road (near the junction with Abhiramapuram First Street) is witnessing an abundance of sewage flow.”

On condition of anonymity, a resident from this section of Dr Ranga Road reveals that when sewage leakage happened, Metro Water had advised them to keep the drinking water supply valve closed for a few days.

“The overhead tank and sumps were contaminated. And after waiting for a few days, we opened the valve. Metro Water asked us to not keep the valve open at all times, but only when it is necessary, as there is no knowing when a drainage pipeline will be ruptured on account of the SWD work. The fresh flow of sewage is now causing fresh concern. We understand the challenges faced by the workers engaged in the SWD work and also pity their situation, but lack of access to clean water is causing anxiety for us,” the resident says.

On September 8, around 1.30 p.m., a SWD trench further up, closer to Ranga Lane, was “coughing up” sewage that had inadvertently entered its airways, a pumping motor having been pressed into this emergency work. Through a pipe, the intrusive fluid was being drained into an old SWD network at the Ranga Lane junction.

A ‘private pool’ they do not want

The Kalayanaramans have a “private pool” they would pass up most gladly. It is a trench that came up as part of Greater Chennai Corporation’s intergrated SWD work, but the fact that it has been staying in glorious isolation, cut off from the rest of the SWD work, has them baffled.

Hema Kalyanaraman and the SWD trench in front of her house

Hema Kalyanaraman and the SWD trench in front of her house

“We were told it was part of a sample work, one undertaken for testing purpose. The trench has been left untouched ever since it was dug up around two months ago,” says Hema Kalyanaraman.

However, the quiet trench has caused enough disruptions to the Kalyanaramans’ everyday living. It has collected sewage, and the consistency of the water shows the sewage is weeks old, and it presents tell-tale signs of mosquito breeding activity.

Hema points to an open section of the old stormwater drain that also displays its “patronage” of sewage.

The pool of sewage however pales when set beside a more keenly felt inconvenience. “The hi-speed Internet is not working, as the cable providing it seems to have been damaged,” says Hema. “Besides, drinking water supply has been disrupted.”

Hema reveals the neighbouring apartment with its 12 units, buys drinking water every day.

‘Greater response from Tangedco expected’

CR Ashok, a resident of Jains Asvarya apartments on Dr Ranga Road, believes challenges resulting from breakdown of Metro Water utilities as a result of the ongoing integrated stormwater drain work are more manageable than issues relating to power supply. Ashok notes CMWSSB officials seem more responsive to the situation, suggesting Tangedco has some socks-pulling to do. He elaborates: “Four junction boxes sit on Dr Ranga Road placing a roadblock in the path of Corporation’s stormwater drain project. These boxes have to be dealt with, on a temporary basis, before these portions can be made available for the SWD work.”

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