The Sembakkam lake has become a dumping yard

As urbanisation started crossing the city boundaries, the first casualty was the water body. One such pathetic victim is the Sembakkam Lake between Sembakkam and Chitlapakkam town panchayats, for instance. Way back in 2006, a land adjoining the lake was earmarked for the segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. The solid waste management scheme was, at that time, hailed as a boon; but over the years, it has turned a bane. Everyday tonnes of garbage is dumped in the area that has a large population (nearly 50,000) in areas such as Iyyapa Nagar, Maruthi Nagar, Vallal Usup Nagar and Tirumalalai Nagar, all coming under the Sembakkam town panchayat; and Gomathi Nagar, Indra Nagar and Sarvamangala Nagar under the Chitlapakkam town panchayat.

The garbage is being dumped into the lake, which is shrinking. Sembakkam town panchayat itself is dumping garbage into the lake making it look like a dumping yard. It is also used as a shed for converting kitchen waste into manure through organic composting.

Way back in 2005, the Estimates Committee of the Assembly made a strong recommendation to the Public Works Department to give a new lease of life to the lake, implementing renovation measures with the funds from NABARD. But, as with most of the schemes, this proposal too was shelved.

To add insult to the injury, under the guise of garbage disposal, the waste is now being burnt frequently. Result is fumes of the toxic dioxin being let into the environs. This not only pollutes the ecosystem but also the cause of ailments such as asthma and respiratory problems.

The bad odour emanating from the open ‘storehouse’ of waste is nauseous. Monsoon makes matters worse as the stench becomes unbearable with garbage getting soaked in rain. The residents keep the windows and doors closed on such occasions.

Mr. Kannan, a former resident of the area, said that this was the reason for him to shift his residence to a place far away from the stench and filth. “I lived here for 30 years but I was unable to put up with the health hazard the environs posed to my family and this drove us out. We were terribly depressed to move out of a familiar zone. ” He is not alone. There are several families who have taken such a decision and moved out to far-flung areas. The Sembakkam Lake stands testimony to people’s anger expressed in the form of demonstrations. C. Lakshmipathy, Sembakkam town panchayat Councillor (12th ward), said, “The resident associations of the area has planned to appeal to the Court seeking justice. Nothing is done under the solid waste management system and we are expecting that the dump yard must be moved to a different place”.

A promise to cleanse the lake was made by several government officials and department personnel. But all in vain; as a result what was once a picturesque lake is now an eye sore and a store house of diseases. The residents are waiting for it to be salvaged.