Stop dumping the problem
Chennai: When A. Meenakshi hops onto A21, the bus that takes her an hour and a half long ride to her office at MEPZ, in suburban Tambaram, she usually dozes off. Fifty minutes into the journey, she wakes up — to a stench that fills her nostrils and settles in her lungs.
The point from where the stench emanates is on the road parallel to Pallikaranai garbage yard where a part of the 6,000 metric tonnes of waste daily generated by the city gets dumped.
Conservancy workers, sans safety boots, gloves or breathing gear, daily pick the waste from different parts of the city, only to dump it at the two yards that have long ago exhausted their capacity. The capacity of the two dump yards combined is to hold 5,400 metric tonnes of waste per day, but the waste generated daily exceeds what the land can hold.
Ganesan Perumal, who lives 100 meters off the Kodungaiyur dumpyard, has been the face of several protests against the dumping and burning of waste there. “Now that the rains have begun, the daily story of living with an unbearable stench starts. It was after a long period of protests that the burning of the waste was stopped,” he told Deccan Chronicle.
“From early morning, and till late into the night, the waste dumping process continues. During that time, umpteen trucks loaded with garbage keep coming in, and the brunt is borne by road commuters and residents alike.
“Why is this site being used for dumping the garbage of Chennai’s 80 lakh people. Is this fair, ethical? Six lakh people living in this area have to suffer the toxic pollution from the waste generated by it. Each ward should have a dump yard of its own instead of dumping all the garbage of the city in our surroundings,” he said.
It has been two years since the city corporation announced that the two landfills, which pose a grievous threat to humans and wildlife alike, would be closed, and measures will be taken for source segregation.
Constantly suffering the stench and the discomfort besides the threat of serious diseases has left people asking why a metropolitan city this big has such an inefficient means of waste disposal. Who is to take responsibility for the health hazards caused to residents nearby the dump yards and to the conservancy workers exposed to the noxious fumes so that they could eke out a decent living?
The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, replaced the existing Solid Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2000, making the generators, producers, and sellers of materials responsible for its disposal. Despite the new rules, city people and the municipal body are yet to incorporate the same in their waste disposal and collection methods respectively.
A senior official with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) said that the source segregation of waste is happening at a local level though not on a large-scale. An engineer with the GCC said, “We have composting plants in 32 areas and plastic waste disposal takes place in Mogappair but it is not being done up to the mark. Efforts are on and it is not like the corporation is not doing anything.”
Speaking about the plans underway, he said that GCC is working with a global consultancy company to analyze how to reclaim the land at the dumping sites in Pallikaranai and Kodungaiyur.
Denying the fact that the dump yard at Pallikarnai has eaten into the marshland and led to a decline of the bird species, he said, “Our waste does not flow out the marshland. It is a walled area, and with the consultancy, we are also testing the dumpyards for any possibility of leachates that could cause harm to environment near it.”
Leachates are smelly liquids that emanate from the waste accumulated at landfills over time. He added that since the dumpyard has been there for over 20 years, the groundwater resources are already polluted; the study being undertaken will help GCC understand how to reclaim the dumping yard and the quality of leachates.
Environmental activist Arun Krishnamurthy of Environmentalist Foundation of India said that the impact of the dumped waste and leachates could be seen on humans as well as the birds at the marshland.
“Efforts should be done from all ends to treat waste and recycle before it lands in landfills. The reduction in the size of the marshland can be seen over the years and it not only affects the population of egrets, kingfishers, pelicans visiting it but also pond turtles, reptiles and other aquatic forms of life.”