Waste management in Chennai has been a problem that the city has struggled to solve over the years. With the launch of the new system of source segregation and emphasis on cleanliness as part of Singara Chennai 2.0, there was renewed hope that there will be cleaner streets. Unfortunately, the experience of the residents of my apartment complex in Anna Nagar has called into question how effective the recent efforts have been. At the heart of the issue is the placement of three garbage bins on our street and the scenes that ensued after.
Garbage bins moved near homes
We have two high-rise blocks, with around 162 apartments in our apartment complex in Anna Nagar West.
The area next to the south side compound wall of our apartment complex was maintained in a clean and sanitized condition until three months ago.
One morning the residents came across sanitary workers of the Greater Chennai Corporation shifting three garbage collection bins from the main road to the spot right outside the compound wall.
The move was made without any consultation with the residents. To make matters worse, after their placement near our homes, the bins have not been emptied and cleaned on a regular basis.
Since then, the area around the bins has also begun accumulating garbage. The once pristine section of the road is barely recognisable.
Residents have made several attempts to get the bins moved but with little success.
Garbage mushrooming around the bins
Unsegregated garbage is being dumped in and around the bins kept adjoining the compound wall of our apartment complex from all households nearby. The area turned into a dumping ground as soon as the bins were placed.
Poultry stalls and fish vendors have started dumping their waste in the street bins. The residents are unable to bear the stench from the uncleared garbage and the mounds that have accumulated close to the bins.
We have been hesitant to open the doors or windows on the side facing the bins due to the odour. The children of the apartment are unable to play in the common area and residents have found the smell to be a nuisance, preventing us from taking short strolls within the premises.
There have also been instances of people urinating next to the bins, worsening the stench.
Garbage dumping has also posed a severe health hazard. There were three cases of dengue fever reported in the last month. At that time, the team from the Greater Chennai Corporation team visited our apartments. When we raised the issue of the bins and possible connection to the cases of dengue, we did not receive a satisfactory response from the team.
Efforts to get GCC to move the bins
To address this situation, we tried to reach the team from the civic body that was responsible for shifting the bins. However, we did not receive a response from them.
We then made a representation in writing to the Councillor of Ward 88. Though the Councillor assured us that she would arrange for the garbage bins to be moved from the area next to our apartment’s compound wall, there has been no action to date. We tried reaching out to her again, only in vain.
I have also tweeted about this issue, tagging the civic body and Corporation Commissioner but no action has been taken to remedy the issue.
Proactive steps from civic body necessary
We have a solid waste management policy for our own apartment complex that works seamlessly. Housekeeping personnel collect segregated waste from each floor on a daily basis in wet and dry garbage bags. This is then shifted to the main garbage room inside our premises. A private vendor has then been engaged to effectively dispose of the segregated waste.
While we take all the necessary steps to ensure cleanliness and reduce the amount of waste being landfilled, the placement of the bins has created a difficult situation for the residents.
The residents would like for the civic authorities to take action to remove the bins and sanitise the area to restore it to its previous condition. The people who dump garbage illegally should be identified and penalised to prevent instances of garbage being dumped on streets and around the bins. If the collection of mixed waste is addressed, the need for the placement of such bins on the street would reduce greatly.
Moreover, the placement of bins must be made in consultation with residents. Bins on the streets must be emptied regularly and any instances of illegal dumping and urination must be nipped in the bud.
When the bin and areas around it are neglected, the residents in the apartments and houses nearby bear the brunt.