CIVIC SENSE Civic bodies across the country have introduced the system of imposing fines for failing to segregate waste

For residents of Perungudi and Kodungaiyur, Bhogi smoke is not confined to just one day in a year. Except during the monsoon, the very air they breathe is contaminated with the smoke from fires rising out of mounds of garbage. A study by IIT-Madras at Perungudi a couple of years ago found that groundwater sources up to a radius of five kilometres had been contaminated by the leachate from the dumping yard. But homes and offices continue to be constructed in that area, which has a high population density.

A few decades ago, the Chennai Corporation found two locations — Perungudi and Kodungaiyur — to dump the garbage generated from the city. It created infrastructure and employed men and machinery to collect unsegregated garbage and dump them at these locations. This continues even today. The corporation is taking steps towards scientific closure of the existing dumping yards. With the civic body running out of space to dump garbage, it has begun to scout for alternative landfill sites in neighbouring Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram.

It wants sites where there is no human habitation nearby. This seems next to impossible and the search for an ideal location only continues. And for over a year now, it has been promising to deal with the city’s garbage problem in a scientific manner and has called for expressions of interest from companies. The responses have been good. But nothing has taken shape so far.

All the efforts of the civic body are towards removal of garbage from the city rather than reducing its generation by segregating at source. To ensure that residents, commercial complexes and offices segregate garbage, several municipal corporations across the country have introduced the system of imposing fines. There is a fine for littering, throwing garbage inside stormwater drains and also for failing to segregate garbage.

In Chennai, a few years ago, attempts were made to collect fines from people who dumped construction debris along roads. But the existing system of civic administration does not seem to be suitable for collecting fines. Unless civic body officials and its 200 councillors get serious about garbage clearance and insist upon source segregation, there will be no end to the issue.

Supposing that the amount of garbage generated stays static at 4,000 tonnes a day, every year the city will add 14,60,000 tonnes to its dumping yards. The figure does present a scary picture.

A change is the need of the hour and that should start from the Chennai Corporation. It is time the civic body showed the way and made a beginning by segregating garbage on its own premises. It is pertinent that other government offices, educational institutions, industries, apartment complexes and individual homes too follow suit. If a city like Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, can manage to send just three per cent of waste to landfill sites, why can’t we? All it takes is a few more bins and the will to put each kind of waste separately.

Keywords: civic awarness

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