ON MARCH 23, serial blasts in Delhi's upmarket Connaught Place area shook the city. However, the "terrorists" this time were non-human: they were the sewage drains of the area which exploded due to pressure, causing quite a stink.
At least 40 manhole covers blew off, and the flying pieces of road tarmac injured 14 people. Officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) who surveyed the spot stated that the clogging of methane gas in the drains could be the cause of the blasts.
Delhi's 60-year old sewerage system is no longer capable of coping with the increased load of waste generated due to the burgeoning population. Illegal connections into the rainwater drains have further aggravated the problem.
Speculations are rife: due to the slow movement of sewage in the drain,. organic gases may have got trapped in the drains; petrol from the near-bypetrol pumps might have entered the drains; gas from hospitals in the vicinity could also have seeped into the sewer lines, choking them; and a possible short circuit in an under ground cable could have sparked off the explosions.
A report on the blasts, tabled in the Delhi legislative assembly 5 days after the incident, has recommended the delinking of the rainwater and sewage drains, regular cleaning of both, replacing and repairing of the ravaged sewer lines, ensuring that no oil or grease seeps into the drains, and the banning of Polythene bag dumping in the drains, as they choke the lines.
Unless all the recommendations are implemented and observed regularIN, there could be a repetition in Delhi of Mexico's awesome Guadalajara blasts which had killed 200 and injured 1,500 in April 1992, all due to some poisonous gas in the sewers.