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Updated: July 7, 2012 16:22 IST

Plastic waste chokes storm water drains

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Hazardous: Garbage and plastic waste found floating in one of the storm water drains in southern suburbs of the city.
Special Arrangement Hazardous: Garbage and plastic waste found floating in one of the storm water drains in southern suburbs of the city.

But for a handful of rural local bodies, source segregation as a concept was yet to start in most of the municipalities, town panchayats and panchayats

If on the one hand State-sponsored dumping of garbage in water bodies has been accelerating the decay of lakes and tanks in the southern suburbs of Chennai, residents too contribute their bit by discharging sewage and dumping plastic and other waste in channels linking water bodies and storm water drains.

Without an exception, every single storm water drain and channel that connects one lake with the other has been nearly ruined due to non-stop dumping of garbage by residents. People find it most convenient to throw waste outside their homes through windows directly into these drains and water channels. Tonnes of floating garbage is seen in such drains all over the southern suburbs of Chennai.

Complete mess

Take for instance, the drain linking Tirupananthaal Lake and other water bodies around it such as Moongil Eri, which is in a complete mess.

The lake is dry, with sewage running through the entire channel with a massive quantity of garbage floating on it. Engineers of the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply told Downtown that along with the Public Works Department, a considerable amount of money was being spent on deepening, widening and desilting water channels, at least the crucial ones ahead of the monsoon each year.

The amount of waste taken out of these drains is simply unimaginable and the task of disposing it is another mammoth challenge indeed. But for a handful of rural local bodies, source segregation as a concept is yet to start in most of the municipalities, town panchayats and village panchayats in the city suburbs. When commercial establishments indulge in indiscriminate dumping of waste in public places or drains, the violators can at least be easily identified and penal action, including collection of fine, could be initiated. However, in the case of individuals throwing waste into the storm water drains, there is no way the local body administration can act against them, according to the engineers.

Environmentalists blame the State Government for soft-pedalling on the issue of using plastics and polythene. While some stores volunteered to provide their customers cloth bags or at least collecting a nominal fee from them for the use of plastic and polythene bags, many others continued to provide plastic bags free of cost. “People do not mind taking away essential commodities in cloth bags from fair price shops.

Why should they come to supermarkets empty handed and walk away with a dozen small and big polythene covers and plastic bags?” observed M. Dayalan, a senior citizen in Rajakilpakkam. According to him, the local bodies has miserably failed in creating awareness among the people on source segregation. The burden of segregating kitchen waste (degradable) from non-degradable waste has been passed on to street beautifiers engaged by non-governmental agencies or members of self-help groups. It is pathetic to see women workers sifting through piles of waste to separate plastic waste that can be recycled.

The state of water bodies is worsening due to dumping of garbage, and the State government should no longer engage in half-hearted measures in implementing proper solid waste management practices, Mr. Dayalan said. Residents are of the view that protection of natural resources can become a reality only if the State Government implements foolproof measures on garbage collection and disposal.

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