Well at last, Chief Minister N Biren Singh is talking about clogged drains and we must say it takes a politician of his calibre and political will to streamline the drainage system of Greater Imphal area. In a function to celebrate 25 years of Imphal East district, the chief minister instructed the district deputy commissioner to clear any form of encroachment on the public drains with fear or favour. And torrential rain does bring out the problem of clogged drains with many roads being flooded causing inconveniences to the general public.
As incessant rains continue to lash the entire Northeast, including Manipur, many rivers are running in spate while bridges had been washed away. Landslides and mudslides continue to ravage the hills cutting off entire areas.
More rains are coming and we should roll up our sleeves for a devastating flood. What we are concerned now is the problem of clogged drains of Imphal city. For a valley which once had a perfect drainage system and waterways in the past, the present drainage system is a joke on our forefathers. And now, let us talk about the drainage system of Imphal.
Fifty years ago, the drains on both sides of the major roads were about 3-5 metres, and in the lanes 1-2 metres and flash floods were vitually unknown in those days. Come what may, the drains were never clogged and excess water was drained out through the Nambul River and the Naga River which passes through the heart of Imphal.
Lamphelpat and Takyelpat were low lying areas where the excess water of Nambul is stored for some time to prevent floods which again drain out after the river level comes down. Other rivers also have such temporary depositories.
In recent times, the government had reclaimed the pats (wetlands) for building housing colonies and other structures and the basic purpose of such low lying areas has been defeated. And the width and depth of the drains on main roads and lanes has been greatly reduced. For main roads, the width of the roadside drains have been reduced to one metre with a depth of one metre while that of the drains in lanes to one and half feet.
One may say that, in the olden days, the main roads and lanes were narrow, and that most parts of the drains had to be filled up for creating wider roads and lanes. The narrow and shallow drains with covers coupled with the change in the character of garbage have clogged the drains.
In olden times, every family has a soak pit called ‘Lukhaak-kom’ where kitchen waste and other waste materials are dumped and since most of the waste materials are bio-degradable they became natural fertilizers in time for the kitchen gardens. However, due to population pressure most of the Lukhaak-koms have vanished from urban areas and again the character of waste material has changed with the coming of plastic wrappers and bags.
A major waste material which stands out in present times is plastic wrappers, bottles big and small, and other non-degradable items.
The city administration had in recent times introduced garbage collection by private parties. But, tragedy is that there is no segregation of waste between bio-degradable and non-degradable items. As the drains are mostly covered, there is practically no hope of daily maintenance by any concerned citizen.
So, considering the increase in population and changing nature of waste material, it is necessary to widen the drains. Besides that, the administration needs to go all out against people who encroach upon public drains either by extension of their building structures or by piling construction materials.
As a short-term measure, the administration needs to clear the encroachment. In the long-term, a drainage system covering the whole of Imphal where the drains beside main roads and in the leikai roads are widened for which it is required of the government to ask people to part with portions of their land or by invoking the Land Acquisition Act.
Most landowners do not want to part with even an inch of their land while on the other hand they would always think of any means to encroach upon public land or drain to gain even an inch. Such is the way of the world. That is exactly where political will comes in to streamline the drainage system of Imphal.