Chennai: Waste management leaves much to be desired

With little action by the panchayats on source segregation and composting, open spaces turn dumpyards

TAMBARAM: Rajiv Gandhi Salai (formerly Old Mahabalipuram Road), with massive complexes of leading software companies on either side, presents Chennai as a leading player in the information technology sector. Running parallel to it is East Coast Road, a scenic beachway offering a spectacular drive to motorists taking a break from the city.

Garbage dumped in a place meant for a park in Injambakkam Panchayat. — Photo: Karunakaran

But the magnitude of problems caused by dumping of garbage takes the sheen off these important stretches. Kottivakkam, Palavakkam, Neelankarai, Injambakkam and Uthandi village panchayats off ECR and Okkiyam Thoraipakkam, Karapakkam and Semmanchery off Rajiv Gandhi Salai are being merged with the Chennai Corporation, as per a Government Order issued last month.

With very little being done by the panchayat administration on source segregation, composting or creation of basic landfill sites, vacant spaces meant for public purposes, fringes of waterbodies and road margins are turning into dumpyards. A case in point is a sprawling piece of land off ECR in Injambakkam. Panchayat staff have been dumping garbage in an open space earmarked for a park in Anna Enclave for some months now.

Several tractor loads of garbage generated from Injambakkam are dumped there. Residents are concerned at the attitude of Injambakkam panchayat and have appealed to the St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union, District Rural Development Agency and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to intervene. They are shocked as water drawn from wells located inside the park is supplied to several hundred families in the area. They fear contamination of the well water as the garbage was dumped close to it and there was a possibility of leachate (liquid that drains from a garbage dump) seeping into it.

Enquiries with Injambakkam panchayat staff revealed that they had “taken over” the park for dumping garbage only as a temporary measure. The ‘kaiveli’ where they used to dump the garbage till now was inaccessible now post monsoon and that once tractors can reach the spot, they would stop dumping garbage in the park, the staff said.

The problems is not just restricted to Injambakkam panchayat but in many other panchayats as well. Many patches along the coastline of Bay of Bengal are littered with garbage. The margins of Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Road, till as far as Keelkattalai, are dotted with heaps of garbage dumped by panchayats located far away.

Though they have remained as village panchayats for several decades, their population and the subsequent generation of garbage is almost on a par with those of urban local bodies. Unlike corporations and municipalities that have dedicated teams to tackle solid waste, in the village panchayats, coming under St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union in the southern suburbs of Chennai, the operations are monitored by a lone Total Sanitation Campaign coordinator. In the St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union, the coordinator, till the announcement regarding the expansion of Chennai Corporation limits, looked after 25 village panchayats.

During a meeting with staff of the Panchayat Union and also with chiefs of village panchayats in December 2006, officials of the Kancheepuram district administration had announced that each panchayat would be allotted a piece of land for creating composting sheds. A year later when it did not happen, they were allowed to use abandoned stone quarries in Medavakkam, Ottiyambakkam, Erumaiyur and Zamin Pallavaram as landfill sites but the proposal ran into rough weather owing to protests from environmentalists and residents living around them.

Considering their weak financial status with very little support from the government, the only way out was following the ‘public private’ model of composting, as followed in Mudichur panchayat near Tambaram, a senior official of the district administration said.

However, with the merger of seven panchayats with the Corporation, the “burden” on the panchayat union and the district administration as well had considerably reduced.

K.Manikandan From THE HINDU

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