Madurai Corporation staff and residents struggle to keep surroundings clean

The slow trickle of water in the dry Vaigai riverbed since Wednesday has been a welcome sight for many.

But the banks and bed of the river remain choked with garbage.

Many people use the riverbed for defecation despite the presence of two public toilets in the area. Cows and mules graze on the riverbed and some of them are given bath by their owners in the murky waters.

The Municipal Corporation has been removing water hyacinth and other plants on the riverbed since Wednesday to facilitate free flow of water.

“The accumulation of garbage has led to spread of insects and reptiles and I saw three snakes on Thursday,” said a Corporation worker.

People living near the Government Meenakshi College for Women say they have made a conscious effort not to dispose of garbage on the riverbank and the riverbed after the Corporation issued notices and conducted an awareness campaign to keep the river clean. The residents blame outsiders who, they say, bring garbage in small goods carriers and on motorcycles and dump it on the riverbed.

“In the past one month, the Corporation has been sending lorries to collect garbage that we keep ready to dispose of. This way, our streets are clean and we need not dump them on the riverbed,” says L.Eswari, who owns a petty shop in the area. Many other residents say that while they were able to reprimand a few people who tried to dump garbage, they were unable to stop everyone. Glass bottles, plastic bags, waste disposal bags and dry flowers lie strewn all along the banks of the river.

Sakthivel R, a sanitary supervisor, who is overseeing a group of workers clearing garbage from the banks, says there are groups of young men who sit on the parapet wall along the river and consume liquor at night. “They throw glass bottles around and defecate here. We are often helpless as they sit in large groups and are too drunk to pay heed to us,” he says.

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