Drains Turning Death Traps: A Look Into Few Legal Proceedings

Bhubaneswar: Open drains have been a major cause of loss of life and limbs in Odisha. The most recent among them is the death of 15-year-old Jyoti Prakash Behera who fell into an open stormwater drain in the State capital on Sunday.

Behera was on his way to attend tuition when he slipped into an overflowing drain at Satabdi Nagar yesterday. His body was found trapped in bushes near the drain at Panchasakha Nagar today.

Such incidents in the recent past have raised questions on the steps being taken by the civic authorities to prevent such incidents. Amid allegations and suggestions made by public and opposition leaders, here are some proceedings of top courts and judicial bodies.

In 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had observed that no stormwater drain should be covered. The decision was taken following the recommendations of an Expert Committee in relation to the drainage system in Delhi.

The Committees had filed interim status reports and final reports on restoration, preservation, and beautification of river banks and on control of pollution in River Yamuna.

According to the report of the Expert Committee, covering drains in Delhi would have very serious adverse impacts upon the environment and ecology of Delhi. This would result in more flooding, explosion of diseases, and clogging of drains.

Similar directions had been issued by the NGT in July 2018 in a case related to drains in Haryana. Reportedly, the NGT had further directed the Central Pollution Control Board to issue such directions of general nature throughout the country.

During a hearing of the Karnataka High Court in 2019 on the death of a nine-year-old girl after she fell into an uncovered stormwater drain in 2014 in Bangalore, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had informed the court that the process of covering stormwater drains with concrete slabs was stopped after a direction of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).

The KSPCB had on April 2, 2019, issued a direction to all local bodies, including the BBMP, in this regard based on the National Green Tribunal’s July 2018 directions.

However, the BBMP had said that work on the construction of chain-link fencing and removal of silt from the drains was under progress. The Court had directed the Urban Development Department (UDD) for an update on the progress of work across various municipal corporations to fence open drains.

Meanwhile, the opposition BJP and Congress in Odisha are blaming the authorities of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Sewerage Board for the death of Behera and seek action against the persons responsible.