First it was Delhi that was notorious for its out-of-control toxic air pollution, now it's Chennai that's beginning to throw up frequent environmental tantrums, toxic elements eating into city air being the recent one.
Chennai’s silver sands showcase, our darling Marina Beach woke up to a strange but often brushed-aside sight of white cloud-like foams frothing up with each wave crashing onto the shore.
R. Venkatesan of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research insists it’s not such a worry except for the obvious that corporation needs to buck up and “keep a tight rein on one basic amenity- every household should be connected to sewage lines that eventually ends in the sewage treatment plants.”
While city dwellers revel in the beach over fresh grilled seafood, sugarcane juice and a variety of entertaining games for children, the waters are being dumped with all kinds of waste, Shree Syal an environmental activist, says, “citizen social responsibility is also a must. We can’t always blame authorities. With our bursting population we must inculcate some sensible values of wastage disposal too.”
But what keeps on proving to be a roadblock in achieving a pollution free beach in Chennai and thus pointing to the faulty water management system is constant dumping of untreated sewage into the four important rivers- Buckingham canal, the Adyar river, the Cooum river and Kosasthalaiyar river, which eventually end up in the sea. Explaining the same, Venkatesan says, “This is the time of N-E monsoon winds which make the ocean current flow from north to south. Although water is treated at the sewage plants, some chemicals and soap get a pass and continue to be there. The plants mainly filter out the biological waste and the toxic elements. So the rivers carrying these unauthorized deposits in the water flow on and if rain occurs, it results in enormous amount of fresh water which when meet the waves get churned, causing foams. Foam is predominantly an urban phenomenon.” He further adds how it is some households that lack a basic facility while hotels come under the ambit of the pollution control board’s scanner , making it mandatory to have own effluent and sewage treatment plants in compliance with the Supreme court order, but still the discharged water is not fully free of pollutants.
M. B. Nirmal of Exnora International, an environmental activist, says, “The Adyar river alone can cater to the whole Chennai city, if taken care of.” Pointing out the system turning blind eye to several factories in city indulging in massive rule violations, Nirmal opines, “there should be more check dam constructions within 10 kms from Tiruneermalai where the Adyar river originates.”
Speaking on rules flouting and government apathy, he hotly contests, “the sewage plant at Nesapakkam is not even fully functioning and is treating only 20-30% of sewage. Tankers carrying untreated chemical waste from SIDCO industrial estate in Thirumudivakkam let it out in Periya Eri near Tiruneermalai which eventually leads it to the Adyar river. Coming to city, fertilizer company Coromandel International is also contributing by letting out effluents into the sea at Ennore.”
Environmentalist Nanditha Krishna accentuates how the situation has put the children’s health at stake who come to play on the beach. Pointing out how this can trigger skin problems, she asserts, “I will completely blame every government that has come and gone in the last 60 years in Tamil Nadu. None bothered about toxic effluents in Chennai’s rivers. The discharged water from any sewage treatment plant should be diverted to the nearby agricultural fields instead of letting it pour into the freshwater rivers.”
Condemning how the sea near North Madras is constantly bearing the brunt- thanks to industrialization and their heavy chemical wastes, Nanditha points out, “this in turn is harming the fish and is eventually ending up in the human food chain.”
As city continues to reel under the blunt apathy of administration, one will continue to remember William Ramsey Clark’s hard-hitting quote during these tough times : A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you....