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Exposure to pollution now makes them react only in an emergency zone in

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IN FOCUS: Manali is well known for its industrial units.
IN FOCUS: Manali is well known for its industrial units.

Deepa H Ramakrishnan

Residents of Manali choked by pollution to groundwater, air

CHENNAI: Large industrial units, which provide jobs to thousands of people, and are often accused of polluting groundwater and ambient air, dominate Manali, a third grade municipality, nestled between Kathivakkam on the east, Madhavaram on the west and Tiruvottiyur on the south.

After decades of industrialisation, residents of the municipality, which comprises revenue villages of Manali, Amullavoyal and Vaikkadu, have got used to the different chemical smells that only when there is an emergency that they react. “When wind direction changes, the smells flow into the residential areas and at times it causes irritation in the eyes, throat and nose. When it rains, the stench is stronger than in other times since there is no way for the gases to escape,” said Marimuthu, a resident of the area.

“Chemical wastes and oils are let into the Buckingham canal. There is also too much carbon content in the air resulting in a thin layer of black dust settling on our clothes. We have been demanding that an emergency response centre be set up inside the residential areas so that when there is a gas leak in any of the 25 factories, help will be at hand. But nobody is listening,” said M. Mahalingam of Environmental Protection Trust.

“Though the Manali Municipal council adopted resolutions urging the industrial units, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the government to take steps to reduce pollution, nothing has happened.

The groundwater quality has been spoilt owing to pollution by industries. Last year, we had a gas leak [from one of the units] but no follow up action was taken,” Municipal Chairman Mullai R.Gnanasekar said.

There are also other problems plaguing the residents, numbering a little over 36,000 as per an estimate in 2006, living in 18 wards of the municipality. It includes the absence of a road overbridge replacing the level crossing at Maatu Mandhai, poor state of the 100 Feet Road leading to Koyambedu and slow progress of work on Ponneri-Panchetti Road, which is a crucial link road.

R. Muthukumar, a resident of Manali, said people going to Parry’s Corner, Tiruvottiyur and Mint Railway have no choice but to use the level crossing.

“We have been demanding that a road overbridge be constructed. People have even gone on fast. The municipality has been pressing for this demand for quite some time.”

Several other projects including an underground sewerage network, bus terminus, a community hall to replace a damaged old hall, and a new building for the municipality have been announced, they are yet to take off.

Mr. Muthukumar said garbage clearing was not up to the mark in some places and that there were no bins.

“The government had announced Rs. 2 crore for the bus terminus complex but it is yet to give the funds. We have also asked Rs.60 lakh for laying a stormwater drain from Police Quarters to MFL compound wall to let the rainwater into the Puzhal Eri Madagu that goes into sea to prevent water logging in the rain,” said Mr. Gnanasekar.

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