The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Principal Judge (PJ), City Civil Court, Chennai, to enquire into a matter relating to air and water pollution allegedly caused by Central Prison, Puzhal, near here, and the authorities version that arrangements had been made for safe disposal of human waste from the prison, and submit a report within a fortnight.

The First Bench of Acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan gave the interim direction on a public interest litigation petition filed by D.J. Venkatesan, an advocate, seeking a direction to the prison authorities not to dispose of human waste and sewage from the jail in a manner that would cause air and water pollution in the area.

The petitioner stated that the Puzhal lake was one of the primary drinking water sources of Chennai. The jail became operational in November 2006. It could accommodate 1,250 remand prisoners, an equal number of convicts and 500 women prisoners. The prison’s waste and sewage were collected in three large tanks erected on the premises. When the tanks filled up, there was no provision for disposal.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), and the Chennai Corporation filed counter.

The TNPCB submitted that the human waste was routed to a collection well, screened in a screening well, pumped out through conduits at an average of six lakh litres per day and conveyed to the CMWSSB’s pumping station at Kolathur. It was later pumped through the sewage system to the Kodungaiyur plant for treatment and disposal. Steps were being taken to improve the facilities.

The corporation submitted that after complaints from local residents, its health department inspected the prison premises and nearby residential areas. Action had been initiated on a war-footing to bleach the waste material.

The CMWSSB submitted that the prison was maintained by the Public Works Department and the board had no role to play. It said that the water resources were well protected. Water was being checked periodically to maintain its quality.

In its order, the Bench said that to test the veracity of the truth or otherwise in the petitioner’s affidavit and the counter affidavit, it was directing the PJ, City Civil Court, to enquire into the matter.

It adjourned the matter for further hearing after that period.