Every day, on my way to my office, I walk across three electric posts that seem to imitate actor Mohanlal, slanting to one side, precariously over the Perandoor Canal adjacent to the PVS Hospital in Kaloor. And I wonder: Why haven’t officials concerned taken corrective action? Why is it that our system acts only after something goes awry?

I asked the area councillor, Rajani Mani, whether she had noticed that the posts may not withstand the heavy rains predicted by the India Meteorological Department. “We have not received any complaint. If there is any issue, we will take it up with the KSEB,” she responded. 

The question remains: Why wait till there is an “issue”? 
A few days later, I called up the councillor again to inform that corporation workers had dumped hyacinth and sludge from the canal on the adjacent lane. She assured that the waste would be removed. It has been a week, and no action yet. “This is one example of how the maintenance of the city works,” admits a corporation official. “It would be wrong to generalise, but most of them work like this.”

It might sound harsh to single out a councillor. But, this is the story in most wards in the city. Collectively, how effective has the current corporation council been? Kochiites stress that it is high time the civic body woke up from sloth, considering the city’s rapid growth and metropolitan dreams. First, it has to shed the “we-are-like-this-only” attitude, they add.

Public anger peaked over the past few days, as the pre-monsoon rains left many parts of Kochi flooded. Videos and memes of waterlogging have been viral on social media. The latest was from Thoppumpady, where some streets were submerged.  “Several families here have been thinking of relocating to some other place,” said an agitated Joseph Antony, whose house was inundated. “All they [politicians] delivered were false promises. As usual, the common man continues to suffer.” 

Public ire was palpable in the area near the KSRTC bus stand, too. “After every downpour, the roads here get flooded, and lead to a traffic mess,” said Suresh Kumar, an autorickshaw driver. “The corporation has done nothing to solve the situation.” 

Following heavy waterlogging in the area, the corporation recently cleaned one of the canals there and cleared truckloads of plastic waste and sludge. “This is the case with every canal in the city limits. They are all clogged,” said Divya Mohan, a resident near MG Road. “If the corporation had done its duties properly, waterlogging would not have been this severe.”

The corporation’s promises on solving waterlogging in city limits have not been kept, despite the local body claiming to have spent `12 crore on pre-monsoon works. “The corporation has taken up 245 works, including canal cleaning. The works will be completed by May 25,” said Public Works Standing Committee chairperson Sunitha Dixon. However, when contacted for a status check on May 24, she was unavailable for comment. 

Environmentalist and social activist Ranjith Thampy noted that the corporation had begun canal cleaning works late. “Lack of a scientific approach and proper planning has led to the perennial problem of waterlogging. The authorities have to be made accountable for the crores allocated under the Operation Breakthrough project,” he added.

Kochi Mayor M Anilkumar, meanwhile, claimed waterlogging had reduced, when compared with last year. “It will take another six months for the completion of Operation Breakthrough. Once the project is completed, the city will not witness severe water clogging as it did in the previous times,” he added. “This year the corporation has spent money and bought motor pumps to drain out water from vulnerable areas. At present, this is the only solution, and we are doing our duties.”

‘CORPORATION LACKS STRONG TEAM’
D Dhanuraj, chairman of the Kochi-based Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), said a “holistic, scientific approach” was the only solution to waterlogging woes of the city. “Many officials are not aware of storm drainage, an infrastructure designed to drain excess rainwater from streets and roads to large canal systems,” he said. “What we see in the city is the conventional method such as canals. We lack modern infrastructure as the design of the road network is not scientific, constructed without proper planning. The Kochi Corporation lacks the power and capacity to solve such issues. It needs a strong team of engineers, scientists, and experts to execute planning and development. Unfortunately, it does not have one.”

WHAT CITIZENS DEMAND
“Over the period, the city has undergone a major transformation in terms of geography and infrastructure. What we need is to deal with the problem scientifically,” noted president of Ernakulam District Residents Association Apex Council, Ranganatha Prabhu. “New buildings have encroached many canals. Besides regular cleaning, canals should be widened. In some areas, new canals would have to be planned.”

CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a article published in the The New Indian Express on 25 May 2022, Click Here to Read 

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