As the sun began to descend, the already buzzing Koyambedu market road came alive with more action as hundreds of people assembled at a local hotel for the Sakkadai Thiruvizha, organised by Arappor Iyakkam. The event on April 8th was envisioned as a citizen awareness program to highlight the problem of untreated sewage that is being continuously let out into the city’s water bodies, spelling doom for them as well as for the entire ecosystem.
Officials from Chennai Corporation, PWD and CMWSSB came together on a single platform to listen to the woes of the people. It was heartening to see the officials turning up on a Sunday evening, knowing well that they would be subjected to some harsh questioning by residents.
Over 300 residents from areas like Villivakkam, Tondiarpet, R K Nagar, Chitlapakkam, Ramapuram, Korattur, Annanagar West Extension participated.
Spotlight on water and waste
The event began with the volunteers of Arappor Iyakkam taking turns to brief the audience on the various initiatives they have undertaken so far on the issue , the audits that they had conducted and some stark facts that had emerged from these audits .
Sultan, a volunteer with Arappor spoke at length about the water bodies – the past and the current state. He cited examples of Ambattur, Korattur and Villivakkam lakes that once spanned extensive acres, but have now been reduced to much smaller water bodies, thanks to illegal encroachments and real estate development. He shared that Arappor Iyakkam is working on bringing out an atlas of water bodies as a public information and Waterbodies Right Act.
Nakkeeran, another volunteer, shared details on the social audit that was conducted to determine the amount of sewage outflow and the quantity that is being treated. Arappor had earlier brought out a report titled, “Why Chennai stinks,” detailing the working conditions of the pumping stations.
Residents and resident associations shared their grievances over untreated sewage being let out into water bodies, the lack of adequate underground sewers and storm water drainage being used as sewage carriers.
Discussion with authorities
A panel discussion chaired by Prof. S Janakarajan, Retd. Professor, MIDS comprised of officials from Chennai Corporation, Chennai Metro Water, the Public Works Department and Chennai River Restoration Trust, discussed the issue of sewage disposal and treatment. The panel discussion was moderated by Jayaram Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam.
The officials shared their perspective on the situation and unanimously agreed that there is a lot that needs to be done to address the growing infrastructure and growing population.
Resident representatives from several areas then presented their complaints on issues related to sewage disposal.
The coming together of government officials from several cross-functioning departments under a single roof, to patiently hear residents’ woes, was definitely a welcome move. This could well be the first step towards cohesive action for a sewage-free Chennai.