Litterbugs choke railways, river; waste public money

Published: 14 December, 2013 00:07 IST | Shashank Rao |

While Western Railway authorities have already started a cleanup drive to prevent waterlogging during monsoon, MiD DAY encountered several citizens brazenly dumping waste into Mithi River

A casually chucked piece of paper or a plastic bag may prove to be the last straw for the city’s drainage system one of these days. The grim situation becomes most perceptible during monsoons, when waterlogging is a perennial problem. The suburban train system frequently bears the brunt, as one sees heaps of garbage lying around tracks, slum dwellers from adjacent areas often being the culprit.

Mumbaikars openly dispose off their waste comprising wrappers, plastic bags and clothes at Mahim Causeway without worrying of the consequences. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Nearly six months ahead of the rainy season, Western Railway (WR) seems to have taken cognisance of this issue, as authorities have decided to clean culverts and drains all along the 63-km Churchgate-Virar section. Several stretches along the route, namely near stations like Mumbai Central, Dadar, Mahim, Jogeshwari, Kandivli, etc will receive special attention.

Officials claim that they pick up at least 2,000 cubic metres of muck and silt from railway tracks every year. This includes the refuse that is collected from the nearby gutters. More serious is the matter of 1,100 cubic metres of garbage comprising wrappers, plastic bags and clothes that are dumped on rail lines. All these take up space on tracks, causing water to stagnate.

MiD DAY also visited the city’s favourite cesspool Mithi River near Mahim Causeway. In a matter of 60 minutes, seven people, including motorists and pedestrians, nonchalantly chuck flowers, plastic bags filled with trash, heaps of paper, and even meat into the waters. When MiD DAY spoke to these people, their demeanour varied from rude to remorseful. Most of them simply made hurried departures in their cars and two-wheelers; others walked briskly by without revealing their names.

Officials speak
“The muck and waste is collected and then filled in coaches of trains for disposing,” said S Chandrayan, chief PRO, Western Railway. Trains are being operated late at night to ferry the waste for dumping on empty railway land. Laxman Vhatkar, chief engineer of the BMC’s solid waste management department, said, “Yes, it is a major problem, and we are going to come up with a solution. We are making a legal provision, which is in process, in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, to punish such miscreants. There will be fine or imprisonment.”

Case studies
>> A senior citizen arrived and emptied a plastic bag containing flowers into the river. “These were simply flowers offered to God, and not garbage,” he said.
>> Another man arrived in an Innova, and was about to throw some refuse into the waters. When this reporter asked him not to do so, he discarded the waste on the banks and then drove off.
>> Two bikers arrived, one after the other. When the first one was asked why he wanted to dump garbage into the river, he curtly said, “You can continue asking people not to throw trash, I have other work to do,” and he went. About the same time, the other biker came and flung a plastic bag into the water.
>> Then came Ayub, who slaughters goats at Mahim. He tossed some chunks of meat into the river, and left the rest on the footpath. Within a matter of minutes, crows, eagles and dogs were having a feast. “I know garbage shouldn’t be thrown like this, but meat is eaten by birds, dogs and fish,” he opined.
>> Next to arrive were a gentleman and his kid in a Maruti WagonR. Even as this reporter urged him not to dump garbage into the river, he simply tossed in a huge plastic bag and then went back to his vehicle. “I have to drop off my kid, and don’t have time for all this,” he said and departed.
>> Another Innova turned up with a couple inside, who threw a packet into the river. Before this reporter could reach them, they had left.

Amount of muck and silt (in cubic metres) collected from city’s Western Railway tracks every year

63 km
Distance from Churchgate station to Virar

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