The expansion of the garbage dumping area and resumption of burning of waste in the Pallikaranai marshland despite a ban on such activities by the Madras High Court has shocked naturalists and researchers.
Naturalists said that following complaints from residents and reports in the media about burning of garbage and extension of the dumping area, the High Court constituted an expert committee a few years ago and the Court asked them to submit a report in this regard.
Naturalists, who recently visited the area, said the garbage dumping area in the marshland had been extended to 78 hectares from the original 58 hectares.
Similarly, burning of garbage had begun about a fortnight ago, causing serious health problems for those living nearby as well as motorists and other road users.
They complained that, in a recent development, apart from garbage in the Chennai Corporation limits, waste generated in nearby panchayats were also being collected and dumped at the marshland.
Contamination of ground water table
Researchers pointed out that increasing the garbage dumping area would have an adverse effect on the ground water table which continues to be a cause of concern, according to naturalists.
A proper study has to be taken up soon in this regard to ascertain the impact created by the dumping of hazardous waste in the marshland, they said.
Sewage as an invisible threat
While the dumping of garbage is a visible threat to the very survival of the marsh, the release of untreated raw sewage from the Perungudi and Alandur sewage treatment plants also posed an invisible threat.
Such an act would have a very strong negative impact on the various life systems, including human beings, naturalists say.
Intensity of flooding will increase
Researchers fear the increase in the dumping area would also directly affect the natural draining of excess rain water from the nearby residential localities into the sea. They said the dumping of garbage would prevent the flow of rain water.
A senior official said that the forest department had proposed that a study on various aspects of the marshland be taken up. They had proposed to involve the Zoological Survey of India, Indian Institute of Technology and the Anna University. However, the work could not commence due to non-release of funds by the department to the educational institutions concerned.
Another officer said the area falls under the control of the district forest officer, Kancheepuram. Due to the distance, the officer was unable to maintain a strict vigil on the marshland. The area could be brought under the control of the divisional forest officer, urban forestry division based at Chennai or the wildlife warden, Chennai. Such a move could ensure better protection of the marshland, the officer said.