Chennai: Unhygienic toilets cause hardship to schoolchildren

Students of some Corporation schools in Chennai have little choice

CHENNAI: Students in some of the Corporation schools in the city are in a fix. They cannot use the toilet when they need to, due to lack of hygiene and poor maintenance.

The stench near the primary block in the Corporation-run school in Saidapet was unbearable. Going past the toilet block to get to the headmistress’ office is a very difficult task. But hundreds of children have little choice.

With the entire area outside the toilet wet with water leaking from one of the pipes, the space clearly flouts even the basic norms of hygiene. “I don’t use the toilet everyday, but today, I had to,” said a class VI student.

The toilets at another school in West Mambalam were not usable for weeks together because of a sewage block. “I complained to the engineer in the Works Department [of the Corporation] several times, but he kept telling us that they did not have funds,” said the headmaster.

Later, thanks to a school function that the Mayor was to participate in, the Works Department official was forced to attend to the issue, fearing that the students might complain to the Mayor.

“In the case of government schools some delay is understandable since they have to coordinate with the Public Works Department. But in the case of Corporation schools, why should action be delayed when the civic body has a Works Department to look at these matters?” he asked.

Vasantha Balakrishnan, former headmistress, Presidency Government Girls Higher Secondary School, said that about five years ago, the toilets in many government and local body schools were in very bad condition. “However, things have improved now. In addition to the School Education Department’s efforts, organisations such as the Rotary and Lions Clubs have contributed significantly.”

Emphasising the need for proper toilet facilities, she said that school heads should push for adequate facilities. “Girls, particularly those who have reached puberty, cannot manage otherwise.”

Agreeing with her, the head of a girls’ school in Central Chennai said some girls even dropped out of school because of this.

“Sometimes, even our staff toilets are pathetic. We know the difficulty faced by students, but we are helpless.” she said, adding that teachers put in their own money to buy disinfectants.

“I almost never use the toilet at school. If I go in, I’ll feel nauseous,” said a high school girl of the school.

Health issues

The habit of refraining from using the toilets could have serious medical implications, according to Sarada Suresh, Director, Institute of Child Health.

“We do hear of many children not using the toilets in school. They also end up drinking less water. But this could cause formation of stones in the kidney,” she said, referring to the increasing number of cases of children with small stones in the kidney.

“Also girls having their periods should change their napkins often. They might get reproductive track infections due to poor hygiene. In fact, lack of hygiene can lead to host of skin and other infections, too,” she said.

When contacted, Mayor M. Subramanian said: “We are particular about the infrastructure in schools. If students, teachers or heads bring up specific issues, we will certainly attend to them immediately.”

Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said: “We have outsourced labour for cleaning and maintenance now. School heads should supervise their work. We are also taking up regular inspections.”

Meera Srinivasan From THE HINDU

Tiruchi: Water scarcity

There is acute drinking water scarcity in Anbu Nagar in Crawford area. Drinking water is supplied here only once in three days, that too for half an hour. The Corporation is collecting water charge of Rs. 600 for every six months. Though plenty of water is flowing in THE Cauvery river, it is surprising that the Corporation is not able to supply drinking water on alternate days, if not daily.

G. Baskaran, Anbu Nagar. 


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

Tirunelveli: Drinking water leak detection van procured by corporation

Nellai civic body faces complaints, huge water loss due to old pipe ruptures

TIRUNELVELI: The Corporation has procured a vehicle, costing about Rs. 14.95 lakh, to detect and repair leakage in drinking water pipelines.

Even as the residential areas in the peripheral regions within the corporation limits is steadily developing in the recent past, the quantum of drinking water being obtained from the infiltration wells sunk in the perennial Tamirabharani has not improved much.

ALL CLEAR: The mobile drinking water leak detection van procured by Tirunelveli Corporation. — Photo: A_Shaikmohideen

The situation becomes worse whenever the civic body faces huge loss of water due to rupture in the age-old pipelines and subsequently, the supply of drinking water to the area concerned is affected severely for several days.

Consequently, the residents either come to the corporation office with empty pots in protest against the erratic supply of drinking water or stage road roko in their area itself with the councillor concerned leading the show.

To avoid such unpleasant situations to some extent in future, the corporation has purchased this vehicle equipped with modern gadgets can detect and repair leakages in the drinking water pipelines in the pumping stations, primary pipelines originating from the pumping stations, overhead and ground-level tanks and secondary distribution pipelines taking water to the consumers.

Moreover, the quantity of chlorine dissolved in the drinking water can be estimated. The equipment include microphone system with speaker, chloroscope, conductivity meter, pH meter, turbidity meter, vibrator and digital TDS. A skilled and an unskilled worker would be available to attend the problems.


Bangalore: A disaster waiting to happen

Did you ever imagine crossing a drain is fraught with danger in IT city?

BANGALORE: Every day, on their way to school, work or just on plain errands, residents of Rajajinagar 4th Block N Block and Ramachandrapuram Layout, risk injury or worse. Their very simple act of crossing a drain separating the two localities is fraught with danger. They cross the storm water drain gingerly balancing themselves on four pipes carrying electric wires that make for a bridge. Not only do they risk falling into the drain, they are also vulnerable to electrocution.

RISKY CROSSING: Children struggle to walk on the pipes that have electric cables to cross the drain in Rajajinagar.— PHOTO: K. GOPINATHAN

Residents and shop-keepers around the area say that a bridge was demolished by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) over two months ago as it constricted the flow of water in the drain and they were promised a much wider bridge.

Although a board proclaims that “work is under progress”, there is no sign of construction, compelling pedestrians to balance themselves on the wire-encased poles as a shortcut. The shortcut is tempting as the longer route involves walking a few km. Apart from garment factory workers, several schoolchildren use the short cut. “There are almost four garment factories in Ramachandrapuram employing at least 1,000 workers each. Children from the Corporation School and Gyana Jyothi School use the shortcut frequently,” says S.K. Murugan, manufacturer of confectioneries in Ramachandrapuram. “Many children have dropped their lunch boxes, bags and books into the drain, and some old people have also fallen into it.”

He points out that there is a very real danger of the people being electrocuted as the wire sleeves are beginning to thin out.

Mr. Murugan says that residents have complained to the BBMP as well as taken up the matter with the MLAs of both the areas but to no avail. “When it rains the situation gets worse. Water overflows into homes and on to the road; a short circuit can take place and people can be electrocuted.”

Deepika Arwind – From THE HINDU

Chennai: It was a near repeat of last year’s monsoon

CHENNAI: As residents of the city reeled under heavy downpour, resulting in slow moving traffic, battered roads and unannounced power cuts on Saturday, the Chennai Corporation’s version that it had desilted 90 per cent of the stormwater drains were laid bare. It was a near repeat of last year’s monsoon in many localities and the roads went under several feet of water.

During the 12 hours ending 8.30 p.m., Nungambakkam recorded 83.7 mm of rainfall and Meenambakkam 96.3 mm. Weather officials forecast more intermittent rain, including heavy spells.

SHADES ALL THE WAY: Right from the young woman hurrying to work on Anna Salai, to commuters rushing out of Park station, all had to brave the brunt of the rain on Saturday. Amid the downpour, however, this man in Ambattur stuck to his daily chore of fetching potable water. — Photos: R. Ravindran, R.Ragu and K. Pichumani

Depression likely

The Meteorological Department said Saturday’s low pressure area has now developed into a well-marked low pressure area over the Cape Comorin. The system is likely to intensify into a depression.

In many parts of the city, people waded through knee-deep or waist-high water. Many of them fell into potholes and sustained injuries. Power supply was suspended in slum areas in north and south Chennai which were inundated, a Tamil Nadu Electricity Board source said.

Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and Mayor M. Subramanian visited G.N. Chetty Road in T. Nagar, Ayodhya Nagar off Kamarajar Salai, and some parts of Choolai.

By evening, Corporation officials said 60,000 food packets were distributed to people living in flooded areas in Tondiarpet, Pulianthope and Nungambakkam zones. The civic body also conducted health camps in all 10 zones and would be distributing chlorine tablets.

The four reservoirs supplying water to the city have been receiving good inflow over the past few days. Chembarambakkam received the highest inflow with 2,153 cubic feet per second till 6 a.m. on Saturday.

Officials of the Chennai Metrowater said the reservoirs received an additional storage of about 270 million cubic feet from rainfall alone. This is equivalent to nine days’ supply to the city. The possibility of inundation in areas surrounding the Porur Lake is slim since water from Chembarambakkam would be released only if there is surplus in the reservoir, officials said.

But, the monsoon was a nightmare for many residents as stagnant water threw life out of gear. Roadside mechanics were seen busy repairing two-wheelers that got stuck. At the Tirumangalam Police Station, the personnel worked in knee-deep water as the station was flooded.

About 3,000 residents of Gnanamurthy Nagar in Ambattur Municipal limits watched helplessly as water entered their homes on Friday afternoon. The residents’ welfare association secretary, M.R. Chockalingam, said, “Last year we had a similar problem and the Chief Secretary visited the area then. The problem is because 200 Feet Road is being laid from Maduravoyal to Madhavaram. There is no proper provision to drain water into the Korattur Lake.”

The story was the same for residents of several localities in west Velachery such as AGS Staff Colony, where the roads went under sheets of water. As water entered many houses, residents planned to move away to safer locations, officials of the civic body listed the proposed measures to avoid such situation, something that they had said last monsoon too. While the residents wanted quick solution to tide over the problems, the officials spoke about a tender under consideration to channel out the water.

S. Kumararaja, a resident of Annai Indira Nagar in Velachery, said that several low-level areas including VGP Selva Nagar, Sarathi Nagar Extension and Anna Nagar have been flooded. More than two feet of water on the road had forced residents to remain indoors.

Important roads such as G.N.Chetty Road, Purasawalkam High Road, Anna Nagar Belly Area, near the Koyambedu junction, and areas such as Tondiarpet, Ambattur Industrial Estate, Tirumangalam and Vyasarpadi were inundated. But, it was business as usual on Ranganathan Street.

At Kodungaiyur dump yard, braving the rain and the stench of rotting garbage, a few children hunted for empty liquor bottles and iron scrap. Ten-year-old Sridhar said, “I am used to the rain. My house is just across the road.”

In several ration shops in North Chennai, large groups of women and elderly men waited in queues to buy kerosene. Muthulakshmi, a homemaker and resident of Manali, said that as she had lost her ration card, she had to buy kerosene from private shops.

Teenagers Ashok and John, students of class X, said their parents had moved in with relatives on Friday as their huts on Ennore Expressway in Tiruvottiyur were submerged. The children stayed back to safeguard the belongings. At Palagaithotti Kuppam, fishermen said they would not venture into the sea as it was rough.

The situation was bad at the MRTS railway stations. Leaky roofs in Mandaveli and Indira Nagar stations and stagnant water in Kasturba Nagar Station compounded the woes of commuters. At least four long-distance trains that arrived in the morning at the Egmore and Central stations were delayed by over three hours due to the rain.

Despite the heavy rain in the southern suburbs, motorists were not trapped in traffic snarls as it was a lean day, police said.

Officials of the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply said municipality and town panchayat officials were instructed to identify and attend to problems in areas prone to water stagnation. Near Sembakkam bus stop, a trench was dug to drain stagnant water.

Residents protest

Officials of the State Highways Department said water from subways near Pazhavanthangal and St. Thomas Mount railway stations were being pumped out. When residents living around the St. Thomas Mount subway complained that the pumped out water had entered their localities, pumping out of water was stopped for three hours on Saturday afternoon. But, it was resumed after officials explained that the water would flow into the Adambakkam Lake.

(With inputs from R. Sujatha, K. Manikandan, K. Lakshmi, Vidya Venkat, R. Srikanth and Deepa H Ramakrishnan)