Perungudi and Kodungaiyur — the city’s dumping yards are an eyesore. Smoke, stench, pollution, illness, dislocation and protest have become keywords in civic news reports, of late. Even as the Chennai Corporation is in the final stages of finding a solution to its problem of garbage accumulation, protests by residents are shifting the focus of civic response from the real issue.

Residents of localities in the vicinity of dumping yards have emerged successful this week in making the civic body scramble to redress their grievances in the short term. Consequently, the focus of conservancy operations continues to shift from meticulous primary collection and innovative secondary transport to strengthening of dumping yards.

The civic machinery is focussed on pacifying residents who are up in arms. As a result, work on constructing roads inside the dumping yard will soon be completed and vacant green patches will soon be filled with mounds of garbage. All this will result in groundwater pollution because of leachate as the civic body has not constructed concrete structures around the landfill as per environmental safety mandates.

Had the civic body utilised technology to separate leachate at the secondary transport stage, the new proposal to dump garbage in additional areas in Kodungaiyur would have had lesser impact on the environment. In cities such as Mumbai, garbage is compacted into dry cakes after separating leachate at the transfer station. The water is then treated and reused. The garbage cakes are placed in a proper arrangement in the dumping yards, preventing uncontrolled pollution of groundwater.

Chennai needs similar technology to handle over 4,500 tonnes of garbage generated in a day. Civic body officials, however, are wary of such technology as a number of solid waste management projects across Indian cities have failed.

Utilisation of technology to handle garbage, however, is the only hope for residents who want remediation and closure of the existing dumping yards in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur.

In a bid to reverse the environmental damage in the above sites, the civic body invited expression of interest for two more solid waste management initiatives from multinational companies soon after the new Corporation council took charge. This includes design of scalable and modular plants with a capacity of processing 10,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. Such projects, however, will have an impact on the environment. Technology suited to source segregation is the best possible solution under the circumstances. The civic body must strike a balance between meticulous primary collection, innovative secondary transport and environmentally-sustainable sites that process garbage.

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