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A dump yard sets residents fuming

The Hindu, 4 Feb 2008
Sarah Hiddleston

CHENNAI: Fetid smell, toxic fumes and plagues of mosquitoes continue to bother residents around Kodungaiyur dump yard. Eight years on from the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000, the facility breaks every rule therein.

Despite repeated announcements by successive governments and budget allocations to the tune of crores of rupees, practices inside Chennai's biggest dump yard forced around 200 residents to the picket line to voice their demands on Sunday.

The dumping yard is unacceptable, S.K. Mahendran, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Perambur, told The Hindu. "We want two things. New land should be allocated for separate disposal grounds in each zone and the government should utilise modern technology to get rid of the waste."

Air samples from the yard taken on January 22, 2007 and analysed by Colombia Laboratory Services in California revealed the presence of 33 noxious gases, five of which are carcinogenic.

Residents in the area spoke of persistent cough and cold, flies, and fears of malaria. The Principal of Mercury Metric Higher Secondary School, S. Ravindran, said that last week the gases got so bad he declared a two-day holiday.

"This dump violates site guidelines. The government never got permission from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to operate or discharge waste here Kodungaiyur is a political solution. It dumps the waste of the city on the poor," said Nityanand Jayaraman, Advisor to Community Environmental Monitoring.

An official from the Pollution Control Board said it has issued show-cause notices to the Corporation at least once a year.

Just a day ahead of the protest, the Chennai Corporation on Saturday announced bidding for solid waste processing and development facilities. Zone One's officer Chandrasekar told protesters that the tender would be finalised by March 27 and would include facilities for composting, refuse-derived fuel power generation, inert processors for brick manufacture and scientific landfill. In this way, he said dumping would be restricted to just 10 per cent of near 1,800 tonnes that the ground currently receives.

But if residents took this to mean that the remaining waste would be transferred elsewhere, they were mistaken. Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni clarified over telephone that all waste materials would continue to be received at the yard, so the total amount of inbound waste would be the same. The difference, he explained, would be that the garbage would be segregated and allocated to different areas of the yard for processing. He said that composting would reduce the smell and "the noxious methane gases" problem would go with proper disposal. So, the remaining volume of waste put into landfill, he said, would be less.

This relies on an effective segregation campaign in the city and the implementation of further segregation practices at the yard. Mr Lakhoni said that an integrated solid waste disposal system would be in place by March 2009, during which time an awareness campaign would be conducted in the city.

In the meantime, the Corporation plans to shift the entrance to the yard to two new places and build two bridges and three roads inside the compound. It is looking into using bacteria researched at Anna University to reduce the smell of the area.

Their plans seem to have mollified some residents in the area for now. "We will hold what has been said as evidence," said advocate Anthony Rajarajan of Ever Vigilant Citizens Welfare Association of North. The association's president, Krishnamoorthy added, "We will give them three months for implementation. If nothing happens, we will take the next battle to Ripon building."

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