Expert Fact Finding Panel Calls for Ban on Open Burning, Phase-out of Dumping in Kodungaiyur
Chennai, 26 March 2007: A six-member expert panel has condemned the illegal dumping of garbage by the Chennai Corporation in Kodungaiyur, and has called for an immediate end to garbage burning and a phase out of garbage dumping in Kodungaiyur. The expert panel also urged the Corporation to abandon plans to set up a composting and waste-to-energy facility in Kodungaiyur saying that will exacerbate the injustices on the local community. More than 1500 tons of Chennai's garbage ends up in the dumpyard in Kodungaiyur.
An air sample taken in the presence of the expert panel revealed 33 chemicals, including 5 cancer-causing toxins in the air within the garbage dump. All carcinogens were above the safe levels prescribed by the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). 1,3- Butadiane which causes liver cancer and Benzene which causes leukemia were 14000 times and 1600 times above the safe levels respectively. The Corporation of Chennai was found dumping in Kodungaiyur with no permits from the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board under the Air, Water or Environmental Protection Acts.
"The illegal dumping and burning of garbage by the Corporation in Kodungaiyur is a clear and present threat to the residents and more than 7000 ragpickers who are exposed to the dump's poisons. Our task is to evolve a solution that not only addresses the issues of pollution, but also addresses the need to incorporate more than 7000 people who make a living of Chennai's discards into any solution for managing the city's discards," the panel said.
The Chennai Corporation must understand the gravity of running a metropolis and go beyond burying and burning its waste, the panel said. The state-of-the-art in discard management is decentralized, community controlled management, where discards are segregated at household or generator level.
"Living conditions for residents living in the vicinity of the dump are miserable. The constantly smouldering garbage dump releases a shroud of toxic smoke that is blamed for the rampant health problems in the neighborhood. First in the line of fire from the dump are the ragpickers, who brave the smoke (and in many instances, cause the smoke by setting fire to the garbage) to scratch a living by recovering resources from the dump," the panel observed in its report. Ragpickers that want to move out of the profession should be supported to do so, even while the working conditions and social recognition of ragpickers that remain in the profession are drastically improved.
The expert panel consisted of Dr. C. N. Deivanayagam, President of the Health India Foundation and former director Hospital for Thoracic Medicine in Tambaram, Ms. R. Geeta, All-India Secretary of Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam, Dr. Karen Coelho, Assistant Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar, Teacher, The School (Krishnamurthy Foundation of India), Dr. M. Thangaraj, Professor and Head, Dr. Ambedkar Center for Economic Studies, University of Madras and Mr. Mohammed Nazir, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, Delhi.
The panelists spoke to residents of Rajarathinam Nagar, Krishnamurthy Nagar, Kannadasan Nagar, Ezhil Nagar and Panakara Nagar, and ragpickers. The Chennai Corporation and Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board did not attend the public hearing.
For more details contact:
Dharmesh Shah – 94444 16546