Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Jul 4:
With less than a fortnight to go for the Nabakalebara Rath Yatra, the much-vaunted underground sewerage system in this pilgrim town, the first in Odisha, is nowhere near completion.
After all-round flak for tardy pace of the work, the Housing and Urban Development (H & UD) department of the Odisha Government has sought to pass off the completion of a pump house as the completion of the sewerage work. It announced on July 1 that the Rs 4 crore crucial pump house project essential for the underground sewerage system in the town has been completed.
But the truth is that while the construction of this pump house, only one of 10 being built in the town, may have been completed, it remains non-functional even now since the other components of the project are still not in place.
Work on the underground sewerage system, the first of its kind in the state, started way back in 2002 and was supposed to be completed by 2004. Later, the deadline was extended by five years in one go to 2009 and then again by another two years to 2011.
At a review meeting chaired by the chief secretary in August last year, the officials claimed the work would be over before Nabakalebara. But even this deadline is now certain to be missed. Thirteen years after the work started, there are no signs of its completion.
This is the state of affairs when the once-in-19-years Nabakalebara is upon us. Once the Nabakalebara is over, there would be no compulsion on those in charge of the project to expedite it and it could take another 10 years before it is completed in all respects and becomes functional.
The laying of the underground pipeline has a long way to go. Furthermore, over 70 percent of the houses in the city are yet to be connected to the main sewerage line. The project can be functional only after these works are over.
The Urban Development Ministry, in a press release, has advised the commercial establishments of the city, hotels and residences to connect their drainage line to the main sewerage line. But, a senior officer, on condition of anonymity, has made it clear that there is no way it can be completed before the big event.
“In any case, we won’t be able to give the sewerage connection before Nabakalebara. We would have to dig the roads to give connections to the houses and hotels. It is just not possible to do it on the eve of Nabakalebara,” said the official.
It may be noted that there are 10 pump houses in the town to draw drainage water from different places. However, without underground pipeline and sewerage connection to the main line, these pump houses are of no use.
Recently, a high-capacity pump house named P-9 was built and the hotels near the sea beach have been connected to the main sewerage line after being chided by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). When completed, this would cover only 30 percent of the entire project. The water drawn through the P-9 pump house would be treated before being released to the Mangala River.
Even though the government continues to blow its own trumpet over infrastructure work on the eve on Nabakalebara and the Chief Minister himself is in the city today to inaugurate many projects, the fate of many other projects are no different.