A canal that has gone off track in Madurai

A weak track will be an invitation to disaster

MADURAI: The ‘crossing’ commences early in the morning. It lasts late into the night. Students, workers, commuters and elderly people from residential areas take these narrow lanes at the back of TVS Nagar, climb up the Madurai-Tirumangalam railway track, get down on the other side and get into a dingy alley to reach the arterial Tirupparankundram Road at Palanganatham. In between, several trains cross the track.

OBNOXIOUS:Sewage water stagnating near T.V.S.Nagar Railway line in Madurai. — Photo: S. James.

Ever since the work of construction of a subway linking the TVS Nagar Road with Palanganatham Junction was taken up, leading to the closure of the road, people have been frequently taking this short but very risky route to reach the nearest Palanganatham bus stop.

The path once taken to reach Palanganatham in a hurry has turned into a routine. Besides two openings, a third path has been created by bringing down a fence on the TVS Nagar side. Those driving two and four-wheelers prefer the nearest Alagappan Nagar and a little circuitous Jaihindpuram Main Road to reach the Tirupparankundram Road. The problem does not end here.

People climb up the track, look to right and left and at the signals and climb down. From three openings on the TVS Nagar side, they enter the alley which provides room for just one person to walk through. The cement slabs, which barely cover the sewage line that occupies a major portion of the length of the alley, provide a peep into the waste – plastic and organic – that goes down the drain. Most of the slabs are broken and a missed step results in a damaged knee.

The drain, which snaked its way parallel to the track, has been blocked at two places now, in view of the construction work. As a result, there is a huge pool of sewage abutting the railway line. The vent, which once allowed passage for surplus water from the Madakulam tank to reach Kovalan Nagar, is chocked with garbage.

The drain used to be a storm water and surplus water carrier not very long ago. It has degenerated into a drain, recalled K. Chandrasekaran, a resident. After crossing the Tirupparankundram Road, it branched off into two. While the main canal ran up to Avaniapuram, the sub-canal went to Kovalan Nagar. The water that flowed in the canal was meant for irrigation. The flat bed of the defunct water carrier has been encroached on both sides, creating an alley. The drain carries the waste generated by the food joints, business establishments and marriage halls that do not have a link to the underground drainage on Tirupparankundram Road.

A walk down the alley is not only risky but also nauseating. The foul smell generated by the drain is unbearable. In the absence of any lighting, women using the passage in the night are at risk. The walls on both sides are so high that even a shout would not attract attention on any side.

The added problem of the drain is proliferation of the mosquito population in the area. Residents on one flank of the railway line complain of a mysterious fever striking them. But a graver threat is to the railway line itself. “Water stagnation for a longer period will weaken the ballast support for the track. Worse will be the situation during monsoon season,” said N. Vaidyanathan, former Joint Chief Engineer, Public Works Department, a resident of TVS Nagar. A weak track would be an invitation to disaster. Over 20 express trains pass through the track daily, many of them during night or early morning. But they are now operated at slow speed due to the construction work and this enables the people crossing the track to wait.

Many people, including children and the aged, use the narrow concrete platform on both sides of the track to reach home or school. At high speed, a miscalculation in crossing the track will mean threat to life.

S. Annamalai – From THE HINDU

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Despite ban, plastic bags still clog airports, railway stations

New Delhi There might be a ban on plastic bags in the city, but they form about a third of the huge mountains of plastic waste generated by the three main railway stations and two airports in the Capital every day.

The figures are staggering. A Central Pollution Control Committee (CPCB) study has found that while Hazrat Nizamuddin, Old Delhi and New Delhi railway stations together churn out at least 6,758 kg of plastic waste every day, the international and domestic airports are not far behind with 3,662 kg per day.

But a closer look reveals that the density of waste generation is more at the airports. While the per capita plastics waste generation is approximately 9 gm/day at the railway stations, it is a high 69 gm/day at the airports. Despite the ban on plastic bags in the Capital, they form 30 per cent of the waste in the railway stations, the major chunk being plastic bottles. However, they form just 10 per cent of the waste generated at the airports, most probably because the shops inside enforce the ban on plastic bags. The main generators of plastic waste at the airports are the caterers, found the study.

“We found lots of plastic bags in the waste. This maybe because passengers coming from other parts of the country do not know the rules here. It the responsibility of the airports and railway stations to make this known,” says CPCB chairman S P Gautam.

But it is not just the passengers who are at fault. A random check revealed that plastic bags are being freely used at the airports and railway stations despite the Rs 1-lakh penalty on those flouting the ban.

But the major problem is plastic bottles. The CPCB now thinks proper waste disposal channels are necessary to get rid of them. “Given the quantity of waste being generated, we have recommended that the plastic be properly used. Ideally, it should be incinerated in cement kilns or used in making roads. Proper channels have to be made for re-use of waste, there is no other way. This is part of our recommendations,” he says.

From Express India

Western Railways want all plastic banned

This is what the railways have told the municipal corporation.

At a joint inspection held last week by Central Railway (CR), Western Railway (WR) and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials, the railway officials demanded a ban on plastic bags because they choke small drains along the tracks.

“We have asked the BMC to ban plastic bags,” said M.C. Chauhan, divisional railway manager, CR.

Every monsoon, at least 69 lakh commuters on Central and Western Railway lines suffer due to overflowing drains and flooding on tracks. Trains are forced to slow down or even stop if it rains heavily because there is limited scope for water to flow out if plastic bags choke drains.

The BMC has banned plastic bags thinner than 50 microns after the 2005 deluge but the railways want all plastic bags to be banned. The BMC has not been very effective in implementing the existing ban.

On Tuesday, when Mumbai received its first heavy showers, the railways had to deploy men to remove plastic from drains. “We have widened the nullahs and raised their height but plastic covers continue to choke them,” said a CR official.

Low-lying spots such as Vikhroli, Parel, Masjid Bunder, Ghatkopar and Wadala on the central line and Charni Road, Grant Road, Lower Parel, Bandra, and Matunga on the western line usually suffer because of this. “Plastic bags escalate problems when it rains heavily because they choke drains,” said G. Pillai, divisional railway manager, WR.

The railways complain that often water from drains along the roads flows to the tracks, which are at a lower level.

The railways have placed at least 1,000 men on round-the-clock duty to clean drains. They have also installed 100 pumps to drain water from tracks.

The BMC recently said those caught throwing plastic and garbage in drains will be fined. Within a week, it has penalised 227 offenders and collected a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh.

From THE HINDU

Mettupalayam-Coonoor stretch of highway to be opened tomorrow

Udhagamandalam: As part of ongoing efforts to restore normality as early as possible in this landslip-hit hill station, the government has decided to throw open the main Mettupalayam-Coonoor section of the National Highway for one-way traffic from Friday, according to Khadi Board Minister K. Ramachandran.

Speaking to reporters here on Wednesday, he said the road was closed for over two months owing to several landslips triggered by heavy rain. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had directed all concerned to take restoration steps on a war footing. The damage was set right in two months as against the expected six months.

Since some of the concrete replacements on bridges needed some more time to become firm, it had been decided to allow only ascending traffic for the time being. In about a week, two-way traffic would be allowed.

About ten days ago, the Ooty-Coonoor section was thrown open for two-way traffic.

Replying to a question, Mr. Ramachandran expressed the hope that the damage on the Coonoor-Metupalayam section during the recent floods would not recur as steps had been taken to prevent blockage of stormwater outlets.

From THE HINDU

Coimbatore Railway Junction lacks safe drinking water supply

Coimbatore: Despite being the second largest revenue spinner next only to Chennai, passengers leaving and arriving Coimbatore Junction are provided only with bore well water drawn from Valankulam for drinking, as the Junction is yet to get Siruvani water supply.

The railway station fetches a daily revenue of Rs. 30 lakh and an annual revenue of Rs 110 crores through passenger and freight charges. Enquiries revealed that the Southern Railway approached the civic body one-and-a-half years back for a water supply connection, with a request that they need close to one lakh litres of water a day. Then, the civic body had asked the railway authorities to wait till the water scarcity gets over. Thereafter, efforts were never pursued for getting a connection.

Coimbatore Junction

Coimbatore Junction

The railway authorities are at present sourcing water from a bore well sunk near Valankulam, a polluted water body. The water drawn from Valankulam was supplied through 62 taps at the railway station. Earlier, there was a water pipeline at the Coimbatore Junction with a supply of 5,000 litres a day.

Owing to lack of facilities to store water, the connection became useless. Medical and Sanitation wing officials at the Coimbatore Junction said that though the water is drawn from the bore well, adequate attention was being paid to treat the water and make it safer for the public use. But, the same was being disputed and challenged by activists who have subjected the water for laboratory examination.

Considering the present storage level in Siruvani reservoir, Southern Railway authorities have renewed their efforts and are on the job of applying for a “bulk” water supply connection besides construction of tanks for storage.

From THE HINDU