Some observations made by the Kerala High Court bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran, while hearing a case regarding the cleaning of Perandur Canal, have caught wide media attention and caused quite a stir. Coming down heavily on the Kochi Corporation authorities for their failure to solve the waterlogging in the city areas of Ernakulam, the bench went to the extent of asking why the government does not wield its whip of dismissing the municipal council. As per Sec 64 of Kerala Municipality Act, the government can dismiss the council. The court orally remarked that the government should exercise this power to dismiss Kochi Corporation council which failed to fulfil this primary responsibility.
It is unlikely to be disputed by even the court that dismissing an elected local self-government body does not go well with democratic values. At the same time, the factors that forced the court to make such a passionate remark are crucial. With the lightest rains, our roads turn into a strip of potholes. And this is not the tale of Kochi alone. It is only that the High Court being situated in Kochi, the conditions there just happened to come to the notice of the court.
The case of capital Thiruvananthapuram may be put in juxtaposition. By cleaning the gutters and canals there under a project called 'Operation Anantha', that city was saved from waterlogging to a great extent. At the same time, other main cities including Kozhikode and Kochi are in a state where with a single rainfall, they become a big pot hole. Most arterial roads and junctions get inundated to an extent that civic life grinds to a halt. It takes only a few minutes of rain for a traffic hub in Kozhikode city, Mavoor Road junction, to get flooded with rain water.
What results from this is that everything from vehicular traffic to pedestrian movement get blocked with a similar effect on city life and business. On Tuesday, because of the water logging in Kochi, even the server room in RTO office got flooded. What is more serious is that such water logging not only brings urban movements to a halt, but they also cause long-term losses.
It may perhaps be argued that the heavy rains this week were unexpected, and may have aggravated the damage. But at the same time it is true that this is a permanent state of our urban belts. Cities are the face of a country. As such, what would be the picture given to the outside world if they cannot survive even moderate downpour! The truth is that city administration authorities miserably fail in poviding scientific and effective water drainage mechanisms for the long term. This is applicable cutting across the political divide.
When we study the history of ancient cities and civilizations, they tell us that drainage and sewage systems formed the backbone of their civic amenities. But then, it is a pity that our modern cities do not measure up to even those ancient cities. Every one should be able to realize that waste water drainage and cleaning are vital aspects related to the face of the country. And that is not the responsibility of municipal administrations alone. It is for the state government to strengthen the local bodies by giving them the capability to meet this challenge. In a land where rain is hardly a rare phenomenon, it would indeed be a shame if such cities exist which do not have the capability to face rain.