‘Dug-up roads have blocked access to underground drainage line leading to stagnation of filth’

The past week, over 500 students of a government school in Thoraipakkam have had to wade through ankle-deep sewage to get to their classrooms.

The St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union Primary School, which has 570 students studying in classes I to V, is surrounded by stagnant sewage let out by households in the slum board tenements. And, the students and teachers of the school, situated in Kannagi Nagar, have no way to get around the cesspool.

“This has been the situation during the rains for as long as I can remember. I come to the school thrice a day, to drop off and pick up my children, and bring them lunch, only to make sure they are not forced to walk through the sludge,” says M. Vijaykumar, a painter, whose children study in classes V and IV.

Not all students are as lucky, however. “I do not like to walk through the filth. It smells very bad,” says V. Balaji, a class III student.

Shopkeepers nearby say it is painful to watch young students wading through the mess several times in a day. The stench apart, the stagnant sewage also causes rashes and other skin problems, some parents complain.

However, a staff nurse at the primary health centre on Rajiv Gandhi Salai, Thoraipakkam, says there have been no specific cases of children coming for treatment of skin diseases. “They are used to it and, therefore, do not contract an infection. Only those who are not accustomed to the situation complain about it,” the nurse says.

T.C. Karunakaran, father of V. Poornima, councillor of ward 195 under which the school comes, says the sewage overflow is due to digging up of nearby roads for laying of underground drainage lines for newly-built slum tenements. Due to this, the sewage is unable to flow into the underground network already in place around the school, he says.

A proposal to build a cement concrete road has already received sanction. There were plans to dump construction rubble and wet cement on the flooded stretch on Monday night and provide temporary relief to the school’s students, but as the lorry did not arrive, they were unable to carry out the work, says Mr. Karunakaran.

It will, however, be completed by Wednesday morning, he says.

An official of Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board says the contractor engaged to provide new connections will be instructed to attend to the problem and rectify the situation immediately.

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