Residents of six large apartment complexes on the shores of the Muttukadu backwaters on Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) have been helplessly watching the relentless damage to their environment for close to three years now. Constant dumping and burning of mixed waste goes on in these shores at Padur, just behind Hindustan University, within 300 metres of these apartments.
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Padur on the IT Corridor, 2 km from SIPCOT IT park, has seen rapid development concurrent with the construction of many high rise residential complexes comprised of more than 6000 apartments. Since the area under the Corporation of Chennai extends only up to SIPCOT, these apartment complexes technically lie in areas under the governance of the local Panchayats.
Though the Muttukadu backwaters constitute an environmentally protected area, garbage from the Padur village are dumped and burnt near the apartments as the Padur Panchayat President himself has ceded. But residents have also observed additional illegal dumping from locations unknown to them, mostly during night and in the wee hours of the morning. Sewage trucks are also seen to dump raw sewage water here.
This is a major threat to their health and well being since they, along with residents of the university hostels and students, depend on the groundwater in the vicinity of this garbage dump. Indiscriminate garbage dumping has seriously restricted the availability of clean water and clean air.
The polluted lake has also affected tourism in the nearby Muttukadu Boathouse and the livelihood of local fishermen. The waste from the Muttukadu banks is swept to the ocean by tides and brought back to the surrounding beaches, which end up being littered with garbage.
In February 2015, residents submitted a signed petition to the Padur Panchayat President, at the Kelambakkam Police station and to the Kancheepuram Collector, Dr. V. Shanmugam, demanding that dumping of raw sewage water and garbage followed by garbage dumping be stopped here. Following this, dumping of sewage water was stopped and dumping and burning of waste was intermittent for a while.
However, after a change in the position of Collector in October 2015, garbage dumping and burning started with renewed vigour and has continued without a stop.
In March 2016, residents submitted a signed petition to stop garbage burning, along with pictures of vehicles dumping garbage, to the Kelambakkam police station, the Padur Panchayat President and the new Collector at Kancheepuram. The police station refused to give us an acknowledgment or any reference number for our petition, but verbally assured us that garbage burning would be stopped. Clearly, that has turned out to be an empty promise. The only development so far has been that garbage dumping now happens mostly during the night and in the early morning hours, while burning continues round the clock.
Meanwhile the Padur Panchayat President has said that there is no other place for the garbage to be taken to and that they have no alternative but to continue burning it to dispose of it. As residents, we offered some alternative solutions to the Panchayat, for example to create a pit for decomposing instead of burning or taking the garbage to an assigned dump. But it appears that there are many with vested interests — garbage contractors, transport operators etc — who stand to profit significantly from the practice.
Having reached a dead end through all our efforts, we have started this petition on the site Change.org requesting the attention of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and several other decision makers who can bring about a change, including Tmt. Gajalakshmi, IAS, Kancheepuram Collector; Thiru. Atulya Misra, IAS, Principal Secretary, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board & Environment and Forests; Thiru. Apurva Varma, IAS, Tamil Nadu Home Secretary and Dr. Chittaranjan Mohandoss, Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation. At this juncture, we only hope that good sense prevails and prevails soon.