Mumbai's lifeline Western, Central Railways respond to water crisis
Just a few days ago, Relief and Rehabilitation minister Eknath Khadse came under severe fire after 10,000 litres of water were used to prepare a temporary helipad in Latur so he could review the drought situation there. But believe it or not, the same quantity of water was being used to wash just a single 12-car local train in Mumbai. Thankfully, this has now been reduced to half the amount, in view of the severe water crisis.
WR and CR were earlier using between 7,000-10,000 litres for the mechanised cleaning of a single rake. This has now come down to 3,000-5,000. File pic
Even as the Indian Railways sends water trains to give some relief to the parched Latur, Mumbai’s Central and Western Railways have cut down on the use of water to clean local trains by deciding to clean them manually instead of using water-guzzling machines.
The Central Railway and Western Railway were earlier using a mechanised process to clean rakes but have now started manual cleaning and reduced water usage to half the earlier amount. File pic
CR and WR were using between 7,000-10,000 litres for the mechanised cleaning of a single rake. Both lines would wash eight trains each per day, using a mechanised system. This meant a total of about 1.36 lakh litres of water was being spent every day (see box).
Now, this number has been cut to less than half – 44,000 litres, thanks to two changes. For one, the trains are now washed after a longer of period of time. Earlier, they would be washed after 8-10 days, but now they are washed after a fortnight.
In addition, both rail agencies have now started washing the rakes manually, which uses about half the water that was required by the automated systems. Now, only 3,000-5,000 litres of water are required to wash each rake. This means that not only has the water usage been halved, but water is also used less often.
“We have reduced our water usage for cleaning and washing to 3,000 litres per rake,” said Gajanan Mahatpurkar, spokesperson for WR, which runs 84 rakes and washes them on rotation-basis at the Mahalaxmi, Kandivli and Virar car sheds. The CR has about 120 rakes in circulation and washes them at the Kurla, Kalwa and Sanpada car sheds.
But with longer gaps between washes, and with less water being used, there is the danger that dirt might accumulate in the coaches. To avoid this, the authorities have instructed cleaners to mop inside the coaches of all trains every day. This will use the bare minimum water — just 100 litres per rake.
Although this means more manual labour for them, officials said it was an important move in light of the water shortage.
“We realised the need to save water and so this wet mopping practice was started. Eight trains are washed thoroughly by hand every day, while we mop the rest of them on a daily basis,” said Narendra Patil, the chief PRO at CR.
“We need to at least mop the coaches otherwise it shall stink,” said a WR official, adding that they not only find plastic wrappers and bottles littered inside, but the coaches are also marked with gutkha or paan stains. Sometimes, the cleaners even find faeces inside the coaches.
Water for Latur
Another special train carrying around 5 lakh litres of water was sent on its way to the parched Latur on April 16. The water train with 10 wagons — each carrying 50,000 litres of water — left from Miraj and will travel a distance of around 350 km to Latur.