Water samples at Murukkumpuzha sent for testing

When a 40-metre-long platform at the Murukkumpuzha railway station was inaugurated early this year, it was hailed as the way forward in sustainable waste management in urban areas. Constructed on top of land filled using non-biodegradable waste from the city, it is the first station of its kind in the country and, perhaps, will remain one of the only two such stations, considering the way things are panning out now.

The troubles surrounding the platform at Murukkumpuzha started even as work was going on. Protests by the local people forced the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation to stop the transport of waste material to the site. The platform, planned to be 540-metre-long, remained 500 metres short in the end.

Now, in response to allegations from the people that the waste is polluting groundwater, a combined team of Pollution Control Board (PCB) and Groundwater Department officials has collected samples from nearby wells to conduct a detailed analysis.

“There was no problem until the monsoon. Following the rains, the water in our wells started giving off a bad smell and had a different colour. It was slightly oily too. Two of the residents got skin rashes too, but it is still not confirmed whether it happened due to the water,” says Francis, a resident here.

'No protection'

There are 20 houses in close proximity to the station. The people say that there was no proper protection below the layer of waste to prevent the leachate from seeping into the groundwater. The waste was spread over thick polythene sheets.

“There are no residential areas near the other stations where this kind of platform was planned. This is possible only in stations that are in isolated locations,” says one of the residents.

The only other station where a similar platform was constructed is Kochuveli, situated on the city’s suburbs. There are no houses near this station.

Railways had similar plans for 20 other stations. In all other stations, including at Kadakkavur and Parassala, there were strong protests from the local people, and the plans had to be abandoned.

“At Kadakkavur, the Corporation put at an estimate of Rs.45 lakh for the platform work, as Railways were not in a position to provide funds. But before we could get government sanction for the estimate, reports of pollution at Murukkumpuzha were out. So, we could not go forward. In Parassala too, the MLA did not give a positive response,” says S. Pushpalatha, chairperson of the Corporation’s standing committee on health.

The results of the sample tested are expected this week.

“We collected two sets of samples. These have been sent to Kochi for detailed analysis, and the results will be out in a few days. We are still not in a position to say whether there is actually any pollution,” says Dileep Kumar, Director of the Suchitwa Mission. If the report reveals traces of leachate in the samples, it will be a double blow – for waste management and for effective land-filling without wasting sand.