Pollution spells doom for residential colony

Residents of Annai Sathiyanagar colony at Villivakkam live in abysmal hygienic conditions. — Photo: S. Thanthoni  

CHENNAI, JUNE 1. Life by the lakeside holds no charm for residents of Annai Sathiyanagar residential colony at Villivakkam. Grossly inadequate sanitary facilities, acute drinking water problem and the highly-polluted Villivakkam lake flanking the tenements have made life miserable for the residents of one of north Chennai's earliest urban slums.

Some 2,000 residents in the 600 houses share just eight latrines built some 20 years ago. With the latrines in poor shape, dwellers are forced to relieve themselves in the open.

``We live in the dark ages. There is no water, electricity or sanitary facilities,'' said Vasantha, whose house abuts an open drain.

Residents say that they had remitted Rs. 100 each to the Slum Clearance Board for drainage connections almost a year ago but work was yet to start.

The Villivakkam lake used to be the primary source of water for the locals.

However, the water body has become highly contaminated and unfit for use. Residents complain that the lake is polluted with untreated sewage from Metrowater's Sewage Treatment Plant.

``Every morning, a group of youth comes here to collect worms from the lake. The rapidly proliferating worms gives you an idea of the quality of water,'' said N. Veerappan, a resident.

In fact, the pollution has also fouled up groundwater resources in the area. ``Well water has a repulsive yellowish tinge and is unfit even for washing clothes,'' says V. Latha, secretary of the women's self help group in the locality.

The residents are wholly dependant on water supplied by tanker lorries.

``The entire place has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes,'' says R. Radha.

Children of the colony frequently develop skin problems. Emissions from the adjoining burial grounds also cause respiratory problems in children, she says.

The treatment unit is saddled with a load much beyond its capacity. Besides the Villivikkam phase I and phase II pumping stations, the Anna Nagar West Extension pumping station is in operation at this plant.

When contacted, a Metrowater official said that there was no point in upgrading the partial sewage treatment plant at Villivakkam as pipelines had been already laid to divert the sewage to the Kodungaiyur Treatment Plant.

The problem with inter-connectors laid near the railway lines would be sorted out shortly, he said.