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Tamil Nadu village opposes waste dumping plan

Tuesday March 15, 2:35 PM
By Indo-Asian News Service

Chennai, A village near Chennai is up in arms against a state government plan to dump hazardous waste from about 400 industrial units.

The Tamil Nadu government's plan to set up a waste landfill site in Gummidipoondi village in the northern outskirts of Chennai city, bordering Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, has run into open hostility from the villagers concerned.

The planned dump will have a capacity of 12,000 tonnes per year. About 3,364 tonnes of spent solvents, waste oils, pesticide wastes, polychlorinated biphenyls and organic waste from three northern Tamil Nadu districts can also be burnt and buried in the site for 25 years.

However, such statistics fail to impress the villagers, who have raised an alarm on fears of health and groundwater contamination.

"We will not let our beautiful farmlands get poisoned by this toxic dump," said Y. Krishnamaraju, a 78-year-old farmer.

Melakottaiyur district had rejected a similar plan last year, villagers said. Their vehement protests have led the state government to call for a public hearing on the issue Friday.

In January, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) had submitted an environmental appraisal report on a preliminary evaluation of the proposed site.

It said the site was a potential area for groundwater exploitation, had very good groundwater quality, was close to a major drainage (Araniyar) and could provide alternative source of water supply to Chennai in summer.

According to NEERI, "From a perusal of all these criteria, it would appear that the proposed landfill facility may not be located at Gummidipoondi."

The district gets a rainfall of more than 1,000 mm annually and there is abundant availability of sweet groundwater and fertile soil, which makes Gummidipoondi a major agricultural area.

US Environmental Protection Agency guidelines say landfills should not be in areas with a high groundwater table and with porous or permeable soil that are close to human habitation, near drinking water sources and prone to flooding.

However, the Goomidipundi site is within 500 metres of farming communities.

Fuelling further fears is the fact that the village is flanked by three drinking reservoirs - the Poondi, Red Hills and Sholavaram reservoirs - that are important drinking water sources for Chennai.

Studies have also found that children born near landfill sites have low birth-weight and newborns tend to have higher rates of birth defects.

With the Industrial Waste Management Association and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board entrusted with the job of setting up the landfill in the Export Promotion Industrial Park, Gummidipoondi can only keep its fingers crossed.

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