Special Correspondent

“Biggest environmental disaster on in Chennai right now”

Plea to declare northern side of swamp as Reserved Forest area

TAMBARAM: The levels of air and water pollution around Pallikaranai Marshland were alarming and unless urgent steps were initiated, the wetland could vanish once and for all, environmentalists have warned.

Participating in an annual protest meeting on Tuesday, members of the Save Pallikaranai Marshland Forum, residents of Velachery, Thoraipakkam and Perungudi, nature lovers, environmentalists and activists said the State Government agencies were simply turning a blind eye to what they termed as the biggest “environmental disaster” on in Chennai right now.

The Forum — a coalition of residents welfare associations, women’s organisations, trade unions and environmental groups among others — has been staging protests, mostly on Gandhi Jayanthi Day for five years. On Tuesday, several activists gathered on Pallavaram- Thoraipakkam Radial Road, near the entrance to the dumping yard where Chennai Corporation disposes about 1,500 tonnes of garbage.

Environmentalist N.Srinivasan said the wetland’s original expanse now was a mere one-tenth of the 6,000 acres originally. Dumping of garbage was taking a severe toll on the health of people living around the Marshland.

Move welcomed

While welcoming the State Government’s recent move to declare 317 hectares on the southern side of the Marshland as Reserve Forest area, J. Surendran, president of Thoraipakkam Residents Welfare Association said the remaining portion on the northern side too should be brought under the Forest Department.

Jayashree Venkatesan of Care Earth said the problems began a few decades ago when local bodies started dumping garbage on the fringes of the wetland. They intensified from 1992 onwards when garbage began to be dumped inside it. Though only about 65 acres were originally identified as land fill site, the site occupied now measures more than 100 acres, she said. More than 200 acres of the Marshland was severely affected by garbage dumping, she added.

Madhumita Dutta of Corporate Accountability Desk, The Other Media, said the deterioration in Pallikaranai Marshland’s original nature had a direct impact on the health of people, particularly women and children living near it.

Ambient Air quality tests done in 2001 and 2005 at Pallikaranai and also in Kodungaiyur by research groups had revealed the presence of several cancer causing chemicals.

Demands

The Forum’s suggestions and demands include a halt to dumping and burning of unsegregated solid and bio-medical waste and clear demarcation of dumping sites. If at all garbage had to be dumped, only kitchen waste should find its way here, activists said.

The government should hold discussions with citizen groups and also constitute a monitoring committee to protect the wetland. The State Government should make it mandatory for all local bodies to implement source segregation and composting kitchen waste.

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