Chennai

Garbage giving way to greenery

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Greater Chennai Corporation and a few NGOs are restoring Oma Kulam

Until a year ago, K.P. Logapriyan, a resident of MRH Road in Madhavaram, would rarely head to the balcony of his apartment, as it provided an inescapable view of a dumping ground.

It was a four-acre (approximate) land, where a pond — Oma Kulam — was buried under garbage. The Greater Chennai Corporation and the erstwhile municipality had been dumping garbage collected from the neighbourhood.

Over a period of 15 years, residents of Madhavaram, including Kilburn Nagar and Thirumurugan Nagar, had organised many campaigns and as well as mane many representations to various government agencies, only to be cold-shouldered.

“Finally, after requests by several residents’ welfare associations, a Corporation official visited the site in March 2016,” says J. Ravi, a member of Kilburn Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association. “He instantly ordered his team to clear the area of garbage and find another site to dump waste.”

To clear the garbage as well as restore the pond, the Corporation associated with Chennai City Connect and Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI).

About 400 metric tonnes of garbage were removed from the site.

Green to grey

Just like any village in these parts that has been overtaken by the juggernaut of development, Madhavaram first lost its paddy fields.

“With development, residential buildings began to come at the rate of knots. The paddy fields disappeared and mounds of garbage were the sign of the changing profile of the locality. The land near Oma Kulam pond was soon converted into a compost yard. However, the composting initiative fell through, and the land began to be used as a dumping ground.

“In the 1970s, there were many approved layouts in Madhavaram. People started building houses and a many apartments came up near the dumping ground. Piles of garbage began to be burnt. Residents were treated to plumes of harmful smoke. Neighbourhoods on all four sides have been affected by this practice,” points out Ravi.

To compound the matter, grey water was being let into the land.

Logapriyan also points out that the site was used as a ‘transit dumping ground’.

“Every morning, Corporation staff would dispose of waste taken from neighbouring areas on to Oma Kulam land; by evening, they would be transferred to the Kodangaiyur dumpyard.”

Restoration under way

A few months after a directive to clear the site of garbage, work on the same began.

“About 10,000 metric tonnes of garbage had to be cleared. Since last year, we have completed almost 70% of the work. The garbage from the neighbourhood is now discarded at the Kodangaiyur dumping ground,” says a Corporation official.

Simultaneously, in May 2017, voluntary organisations Chennai City Connect and EFI started the process of reviving the pond.

“Fortunately, no sewage water was let into the waterbody; so it was not contaminated.

“The major hurdle was the garbage. The pond, which was visible once a 15-feet-high garbage heap was removed, has started receiving water” says Balchand Parayath, a member of Chennai City Connect Foundation.

The team first levelled the ground, de-silted the waterbody and used the silt to reinforce the bunds. Trenches were made on all four sides of the waterbody to collect the rainwater,” he says.

In addition to making a walkway along the compound wall and planting native tree species, the area is also likely to have a small park.

“The Corporation will provide the necessary play and workout equipment.”

Encouraging the residents to take ownership of the pond, the team has facilitated community engagement programmes.

“Since the last six weeks, we have been inviting children to paint the walls of the pond, every weekend. We have also been creating awareness among the residents to maintain the waterbody in future.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 8:11:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/garbage-giving-way-to-greenery/article19784547.ece

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