CHENNAI: The dumping of garbage in the ecologically sensitive Pallikaranai marshland, once restricted to interiors, is getting more brazen, complain environmental activists. Huge mounds of garbage now lie close to 200 Feet Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Ring Road, they add.
Greater Chennai Corporation’s proposal to close down the landfill remains on paper with the civic body alone offloading more than 2,500 tonnes of unsegregated garbage into the marshland on any given day. Besides, trucks of several surrounding local bodies and private firms continue to unload waste here, raising the environmental threat posed to alarming proportions.
Experts say indiscriminate dumping of garbage and encroachments have reduced the size of the marshland a vital conduit for rainwater that can act as an aquifer to the city’s groundwater reserves from 6,000 hectares in the 1960s to 593 hectares by 2012.
The municipal solid waste management and handing rules, 2000 prohibit the establishment of a compost yard or landfill in any water body or wetland but the norms continue to be violated with impunity. “We have not learned any lessons even after the recent floods,” said Jayashree Vencatesan, managing trustee of Care Earth, an NGO that is fighting for conservation of the marshland.
“Unscientific dumping of garbage in the marshland is one the main reasons for flooding in several areas, including the western portion of Perungudi, southern parts of Velachery and parts of Madipakkam. Nw, the expansion of the dumping area is worrying as the groundwater in nearby areas is getting contaminated. It also causes physical damage to the drainage system, the toxic waste affects aquatic organisms in the marsh and resulting in air pollution,” she said.
Corporation officials admitted that they didn’t have any other alternative as all the source-segregation initiatives launched had been unsuccessful so far. “We are yet to identify a firm and the technology for remediation and scientific closure of the dumping ground. But we have managed to stop the fire breakouts in the marsh because of the better surveillance system” said a senior corporation official.
The marshland, one of the few surviving wetlands in the city, is home to several species of plants, fish, insects, reptiles and more than 110 varieties of migratory birds. In 1997, residents of Sai Nagar near Thoraipakkam had approached the Madras high court seeking a ban on dumping of garbage in the ecologically fragile wetland, which is a source of fresh water. The dumping continues unabated.