Delhi’s waterlogged drains: Pan masala packets culprit-in-chief

A study by urban planners from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur brought this fact to light.

New Delhi: Guess what is causing waterlogging in the capital? You might come up with plastic as the most obvious material behind the serious problem, but there’s a more specific list of byproducts which clog drains in the city.

A report by Hindustan Times says that more than one-fifth of the silt that clogs Delhi’s drains in the monsoon, is made up of empty gutkha and pan masala packets. A study by urban planners from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur brought this fact to light.

The three researchers, who surveyed drains in the city for the last two weeks, found that 22% of the silt in drains caused by gutkha and pan masala packets. The survey also found that 27% of it was from plastic bags and plastic film, 39% from paper and other soluble waste, and the remaining 12% from dust, leaves and twigs.

“Most drains in Delhi look like mini gutkha factories. These wrappers are more harmful than regular plastic bags because they’re thicker. During rain, packs that are thrown on roadsides get carried to the mouths of the drains and block the passage of water,” TS Ramachandran, professor in urban design and road management at IIT-Kharagpur told HT.

Ramachandran and his fellow researches — Pravin Nath and Prasanth Kumar — surveyed 35 arterial roads between July 2 and July 15. The silt deposited in the mouths of the drains was collected, separated and weighed to study the cause behind flooding on Delhi’s roads.

“We collected 40kg of packaging waste, and the pan masala wrappers constituted a major share of it. When the mouth of the drain is blocked, water is unable to seep through it, even if it has the capacity to sieve out water,” he said.

Delhi experienced major flooding on July 13 and 16, in which two DTC buses submerged in water and passengers had to be rescued. Cases of severe traffic snarls and road cave-ins due to waterlogging were reported in Delhi .

Some experts also agreed that multilayer packaging, like those used in gutkha, pan masala and snack wrappers, causes more harm to the environment as compared with regular plastic waste because of its non-recyclable properties. “Since these cannot be recycled, they have zero value, and stay as litter on roadsides. The informal sector of waste pickers also does not pick them up,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, a specialist in municipal waste management at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Municipal agencies said that they have been trying to find a solution to the problem of plastic waste being dumped in drains and into storm water drains that reduces the discharge capacity of drains.

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