Waste Water Floods In Fatima Gardens

By Waruni Karunarathne

Fatima Gardens in Makola is at great risk of flooding – and the public is vulnerable to diseases like dengue due to a mismanaged storm water drain in the area. According to the residents of the area, they have been suffering as a result of waste water discharged by an orphanage in the area for over fifteen years.

After numerous complaints lodged by the residents, the Biyagama Pradeshiya Sabha had started constructing a storm water drainage line in the area which is flawed and has not been completed.

According to the residents, basic drainage principles were neglected leaving the area at great risk of flooding, while the intended drain is costly and requires high maintenance.
Residents of the area spoke to The Sunday Leader about this health hazard.

Indrani Tegal observed that despite the natural slope of the street the builders have diverted the water into a parallel lane with two 90 degrees bends in the drain slowing down the water flow. She added, “This has resulted in water stagnation and the spread of diseases like dengue in the area”. According to her, the contractor had dug the drain deep making it very difficult to clean, causing further health hazards. She added, “Deep drains are not only difficult to clean but very expensive whereas Hume pipe drains are ideal for the location. Besides which the water table in the area is high and the drain always contains stagnant water which has led to mosquito breeding and dengue”. She also pointed out that due to the high water table the structure of the drain has to be properly reinforced in order to prevent it collapsing and causing an interruption to the flow of water.

M.S.M. Jeffri noted, “I have lived in this area for the last ten years. There has been no proper drainage system and when it rains water flows down the road making it impossible to walk. However, just before the Western Provincial Council election, the Biyagama Pradeshiya Sabha started constructing the drainage system which has only aggravated the problem due to a lack of insight”. He added that in order to avoid flooding and water stagnanting in the drain constructed by the Pradeshiya Sabha, he had to spend his money to build a private drain through his back yard directing the water flow into a marshy land.

Rifaza Nizhad said that when it rains, the water level rises more than two feet making it impossible for children to go to school. Furthermore this water emanates a stench.

Another resident added that the orphanage had been discharging waste water even before the drain was built and now due to the errors in construction it floods during rains causing a health hazard to residents in the area.

She said that they had filed a court case in 1990 regarding the drainage issue and waste water discharge into the residential area and the verdict had been issued in favour of the residents. She added even though the orphanage had built pits to receive their waste water after the warning, the problem still prevails as they continue to discharge waste water into the drain.

When The Sunday Leader contacted the Secretary of the Makola Muslim Boys’ Orphanage Falih Ghouze, he said that the residents have been providing wrong information regarding the issue and that the orphanage is not discharging any waste water into the drain. He added, “The Biyagama Pradeshiya Sabha intervened and solved the problem sometimes back. Now, we are in possession of the necessary water purifiers and pumps and the water that we now discharge to the drain has been purified”. He assured that the orphanage has built pits to receive waste water.

Ghouze also added that the orphanage had given part of its land for the drains and some residents had encroached on to this land. He further complained that it is the residents who dump dirt and clog the drain. He said that they have been maintaining the orphanage for over 50 years and it is registered under the Social Services Department and the Department of Probation and Child Care Services. He added that the Makola Muslim Boys’ Orphanage is a Charity and takes care of about 128 boys and even though the orphanage wishes to maintain good relations with the residents of the area, there is a lack support from them.

He added that they are maintaining a similar kind of orphanage in Malwana where they have encountered no issues. He said, “We have deployed an employee to clean the drain in our premises every other day and if there is a problem the PHI will have to investigate the matter and inform us”.

The Technical Officer of the Makola branch of the Biyagama Pradeshiya Sabha Nimal Amarasiri told The Sunday Leader that some residents of Fatima Gardens had been complaining about the issue for quite some time. He added, “There was an agreement reached through a case filed in the Supreme Court. The drain was built by the Pradeshiya Sabha according to the Court order. However, some residents were against the drain being constructed in front of their houses”. Thereafter, the Pradeshiya Sabha had built the drain diverting the water flow against the natural slope of the road.

Initially the Pradeshiya Sabha informed The Sunday Leader that that there was no problem in the current water flow but later told the paper that there were a few technical errors in the construction.

Amarasiri said, “There is a small issue with regard to the level difference that slows down the flow. Roughly, one and half to two lakhs of rupees have been allocated to build the storm water drainage line. We have decided not to pay the contractor until they rectify the error”. He assured that they would ask the contractor to rectify the error within the next two weeks. He also said that they would take measures to complete the drainage line by constructing the drain utilizing the natural terrain despite the disapproval of some residents.

When asked about water stagnation in the drain, Amarasiri said that the Health Division of the Pradeshiya Sabha is responsible and would consider deploying road workers of the Pradeshiya Sabha to clean the drain at least once a month in future. He also added that even though the orphanage had been using their own pits to receive waste water after the previous warnings, they have once again started discharging waste water into the drain until they finish fixing the purifiers. “Nonetheless, if the management of the orphanage does not take immediate measures to stop discharging waste water into the drain, the Pradeshiya Sabha will investigate the matter through its PHIs and file a case against the orphanage and take them to court as a step to finding a permanent solution to the issue,” Amarasiri assured.

When contacted, the Superintendent of the PHIs of the Biyagama MOH Abeyanayake said, “When there is stagnant water on roads or in drains we inform the relevant Pradeshiya Sabha or authority regarding the issue. Under the Biyagama MOH, there are eight PHI divisions and Fatima Gardens in Makola is under the supervision of the Makola PHI division; therefore we have not received any complaints related to the issue”.

However, the PHI of the Makola PHI division Rohana Silva said that he had received only one complaint about the problem in Fatima Gardens during his term in office in the Makola Division, and since the complainant did not return he assumed that the issue had been addressed. He claimed that twice a month on Mondays, the PHI division holds a meeting to choose a location for their investigations and to carry out their programmes to overcome health hazards in their division. Despite these programmes, the PHI division has not come across such health hazards in Fatima Gardens, so far.

When The Sunday Leader informed Silva that a resident of Fatima Gardens had informed the paper that her son had contracted dengue recently, Silva responded that the residents are supposed to lodge a complaint with the PHI division if they have health hazards in the area so that they could be investigated. He added that it is not possible for the PHI division to identify all the locations. However he noted that the residents of this area had been hiding issues as the orphanage is affiliated to the local mosque.

In 2002 and 2003 there had been complaints from the area regarding the waste water discharge from the orphanage, which according to the PHI was only bath water waste. Silva added that there have not been any reports of dengue cases in Fatima Gardens but there have been a couple of dengue cases reported in Dewala Para which is located close to Fatima Gardens. He said that he would carry out immediate investigations and take the necessary measures under the Western Province Health Ordinance to file a case against the orphanage if they are found to be at fault.

Though there are approximately ten houses in the area which are directly affected by the problem, about four gardens get constantly flooded. Some other residents have taken advantage of the situation by turning their waste water into the drain whereas despite the natural slope, some others are reluctant to let a drain be built in front of their houses. Due to the negligence of the authorities and selfishness of some residents, the health hazards and difficulties faced by others are being overlooked with no solutions being provided despite their constant pleas.

After The Sunday Leader began making inquiries into this matter, it has been reported that the authorities have begun taking measures to visit the area in order to initiate the necessary action. Hopefully, they will continue their work to make the environment more habitable for the residents while helping to promote mutual understanding between the residents and the orphanage.

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