Though the Corporation has posted a few watchmen to guard the dumping yard, the lack of fencing in a portion has made their job very difficult.

Two years back, the Corporation embarked on an ambitious project of providing scientific cover for decades-old garbage at its Vellaikkal dumping yard. It helped the Corporation from preventing environmental pollution, especially groundwater pollution.

Under the project, over 10 lakh tonne of garbage scattered on the 110-acre of land, accumulated over 40 years, were heaped like a small hillock in one of the corners of the dump yard.

A green cover for the hillock gave an aesthetic look too to the waste.

The then Chief Engineer, K. Sakthivel, had said that the local body was eligible to get carbon credits for its environmental safeguarding measure in terms of grants from a foreign company.

Another scientific approach adopted by the Corporation towards effective solid waste management was setting up of a manure production unit.

The total cost of the project was around Rs. 55 crore.

Segregation

The unit was meant to segregate the organic and inorganic wastes before producing manure.

With 65 per cent of the waste comprising of organic materials which could be turned into manure, the officials planned to drastically reduce the quantity of inorganic waste that would occupy the dump yard.

After so much of effort, the dump has been posing an environmental hazard, especially health hazard to the people of nearby Avaniyapuram.

For, the waste dumped on the yard, set on fire, has been billowing thick smoke causing irritation in eyes and noses.

The strong wind has been fanning the flames so much so that the grass grown in the vicinity has been burnt.

“It is the handiwork of the rag-pickers, who set the waste on fire during nights. They come back in the morning and collect metal particles and make a living out of selling them in scrap market,” the Corporation Commissioner, R. Nanthagopal, said.

Though the Corporation has posted a few watchmen to guard the dumping yard, the lack of fencing in a portion has made their job very difficult.

“They are not able to control the rag-pickers in the darkness. We propose to construct compound wall to secure our area,” he added.

An elderly rag-picker, Subbammal, who commutes from Sangili Thoppu, claimed that at least 30 to 40 persons from Vellaikkal, Avaniyapuram and Thanakkankulam come there every day to collect the scrap.

While the woman was seen carrying only a small rod and bamboo basket, she said the men who come in the mornings have huge magnet bar attached to iron rods, as an easy way of collecting iron particles.

“If I collect the scrap for the whole day, I will manage to get metals worth Rs. 100 a day.

There are few scrap shops in Vellaikkal itself,” she said. She said that her weak physique did not allow her to work anywhere else.

“If I am bothered about my health due to smoke, I will have to remain hungry,” she said.

Mr. Nanthagopal said that the trial run of the manure unit was under way.

“We are able to segregate at least 100 tonnes out of the 450 tonnes of garbage every day. Once the unit becomes fully functional, the metals will be segregated in the unit and the question of burning the garbage will not arise at all,” he said.

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