The stretch of Nullah Leh passing through the garrison city has virtually been turned into a dumping ground by local residents, which has exposed the relaxed attitude of the administration towards clearing it and stopping dumping.
Heaps of solid wastes along the stream are hindering water flow, despite the fact that the administration completed a project to clean the polluted stream and protect low-lying areas nearby from flooding ahead of the monsoon season.
Residents of various low-lying areas including Dhoke Khabba, Umer Road, Nadeem Colony, Dhoke Elahi, City Saddar Road, Dhoke Chiraghdin and Katarian fear that if the stream is not cleared, their house may be inundated by floodwater.
They expressed concerns over the inaction of Water And Sanitation Agency (Wasa) to dredge the stream, which has increased the risk of flooding.
“The Leh has become the only waste dumping site available for residents as the authorities are least-bothered to dispose of the waste at specific places,” said Muhammad Imran, a resident of Dhoke Chiraghdin.
Continuous dumping of solid waste in the stream has reduced its depth and cut the flow of sewage water.
There are a total of 11 streams and 454 drains that flow into the Leh, said an official of Municipal Services Department, adding that almost all of the 11 tributaries, particularly those in residential areas, get clogged by garbage dumped in them.
To create awareness among residents, Wasa installed banners along the streams asking people not dump solid waste in them. It also installed banners in areas which are in dire need of de-silting. Neither approach seems to have worked.
“Look at the garbage. No de-silting has been carried out since last year,” said Ghufran, a resident of Katarian, while pointing towards a garbage heap in the stream.
He asked how the government would protect low-lying areas from flood devastation in this situation.
Meanwhile, the cantonment boards, TMA and Wasa have no formal contingency plan in case of unexpectedly high rainfall.
Officials from both the Chaklala and Rawalpindi cantonment boards claimed Nullah Leh did not come in their jurisdiction. They say the situation on their sides is clear and there is no threat of flooding.
“In the past, floodwater has never reached Rawalpindi Cantt and this time we are also hopeful that the situation will be normal,” said RCB Chief Executive Officer Rana Manzoor.
Wasa Sanitation Director Zahoor Ahmad said the department has spent Rs6 million on dredging the stream in their jurisdiction — from Ammar Chowk to Katarian Pul — adding that they have sent back the machinery hired for de-silting.
He said some areas fall under Chaklala and Rawalpindi Cantonment Boards, while cleaning streams is the responsibility of the Municipal Services Department.
A Municipal Services Department official who did not want to be identified as he is not authorised to talk to the media, said dredging the Leh is not their responsibility. “Our job is to open clogged drains and dispose of solid waste,” he said.
The Chaklala Cantonment chief could not be reached despite many attempts.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2013.
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