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Chennai Municipal Waste Situation

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, October 10, 2008 | 2:35 AM

I was invited by the Expert Committee, Solid Waste Management, Pallikaranai Marsh Land, appointed by the Madras High Court to make a presentation at a public hearing, which was held on October 5, 2008.

The Committee heard the testimonies of the affected people and submissions by the experts in the matter of Municipal Solid Waste Management by the Chennai Municipal Corporation. An estimated 1,500 tonnes of garbage generated in the city gets dumped in Perungudi. Once known for its rich biodiversity and as a fresh water source, the Pallikaranai marsh today spews out toxic substances because of the dumping and burning of garbage at the Perungudi dump yard set up on a portion of the marsh. The Perungudi Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) has not improved the situation as the marsh has lost its fresh water characteristic due to letting of untreated sewage water.

Residents in the region are suffering from blisters, a symptom associated with dioxin emission of burning garbage and they feel that the establishment of the Perungudi dump yard by the Chennai Corporation at the marsh land was a blunder.

A study by the Chennai Corporation in 1996 was against the location of the dumpyard in the marsh land. The study said it was not advisable to locate it as the area is flood-hazard zone. Also with residential layouts approved near the marsh, which was also a waterbody, the implications of leachate formation would be significant. The dumpyard is causing an irreparable damage to the environment and also affecting the residents living nearby.

The impact of setting up an STP and dump yard in the marsh has resulted in air and water pollution. Residents have to shell out more money for purchasing water and medicine. The heavy metals dumped in the landfill had contaminated the ground water making it unusable for any purpose.

The residents living around the Perungudi dump yard and the STP suffered from various ailments of throat pain, suffocation, cold and other health problems.
The marsh, once spread over 5,000 hectares, got fragmented over the years because of various developments, including the Mass Rapid Transit System, construction of institutional complexes and the setting up of the STP and the dump yard Pallikaranai marsh still has a chance to be retrieved from destruction.

An extensive study on the marsh was carried out. Nearly 317 hectares on the southern end of the marsh had been declared a protected site under the Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882. Demarcating the remaining portion of the marsh located on the northern end as protected area could nurse the marsh back to a natural recovery.

Environmentalists and residents have charged the Chennai Municipal Corporation with expanding the dump yard. With the natural course of water being from north to south, the civic agency, by expanding the landfill towards north, is blocking water from draining out.

Today the civic agency occupied double the space allotted for the landfill and has been expanding day by day.

Later, I was invited by the Chennai Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni who wished to understand the environmental health concerns with regard to waste to energy projects based on RDF technology and the its track record else where. I was accompanied by Nityanand Jayaraman. Our meeting concluded with the Commissioner stating that source segregation appeared to be the only solution for reducing garbage generation. The Corporation is also taking steps to stop burning of garbage at the dump yard. The Commissioner sought some studies and relevant court orders in order to act on the proposed waste to energy project in Chennai.

There was a Press Meet too to inform the media persons about the global and national experience with such projects and the violation of international and national laws that it entails.

Staff and faculty of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras too has strongly urged the concerned authorities to take the following steps:
1. A Complete Stop to Dumping of untreated waste and sewage at the Site
2. Declare the whole of Pallikarnai marsh as an ecologically sensitive reserved marsh
3. Scrap all plans for construction of incinerators and/or landfills in or around the area
4. Implement measures throughout Chennai to segregate waste at source, and
5. To turn organic waste into manure at the local level
6. Discourage the use of non-biodegradable products in the city and take effective steps for sustainable treatment of non-degradable waste.
and consider effective measures: to make Extended Producer Responsibility (taking back material not easy to dispose, recycle or reuse) a requirement; to emphasize design and development of sustainable materials that are safe to use, easy to dispose, recycle or reuse; and to encourage modular design of products to facilitate easier dismantling, recovery and reuse/recycling of components at the end-of-life.

I have also sent a written submission to the Expert Committee, Solid Waste Management, Pallikaranai Marsh Land, appointed by the Madras High Court. My visit was facilitated by Nityanand Jayaraman and T Ramakumar.

Gopal Krishna


Chennai Corporation project to burn waste under fire

Chennai: “It is a dioxin-emitting factory,” is how environmentalists dubbed the Chennai Corporation’s bid to reduce waste through Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) technology at the Perungudi dumping ground. Dioxin is a carcinogen that can cause cancer, affect immune system and disrupt the reproductive system.

The corporation is yet to enter into a formal agreement with Hydroair Techtonics, the Mumbai-based firm which bagged a contract to handle 1,400 tonnes of municipal solid waste in Perungudi a few months ago. But the project is already under fire. “Incineration of pellets made from RDF violates several international laws. As per the Kyoto Protocol, waste incineration is a green house gas emitter and can become a public health disaster,” says Gopal Krishna, a member of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

As per the plan, Hydroair Techtonics will produce energy through use of RDF technology, produce manure by composting, set up a recycling plant besides developing a sanitary landfill site on the allotted 30 acres of land. The company has offered royalty of Rs 15 per tonne of waste to corporation. It will help corporation earn Rs 76.65 lakh annually and an addition of 5% hike per tonne every year.

“RDF technology is obsolete and distorts waste-management beyond repair. They use Chennai residents as guinea-birds for experiment. A test of human milk in Perungudi found a high level of dioxins. The local body should look at biological methods like bio-methanation for waste-reduction,” adds Gopal Krishna.

A similar project of the Andhra Pradesh government in 2001 failed, he said. The RDF plant in Rangareddy District led to a public health disaster, while another unit in Delhi too failed. Further, the composition of waste in the country is 800 cal/kg is much less than the required 2,000 to 3,000 cal/kg for combustion technologies, he added.
In January 2007, a Supreme Court committee recommended bio-methanation, an ideal methodology for municipal solid waste handling and management.

“We have to either go in for bio-methanathan, controlled unaerobic digestive methods or composting,” said Nithyanand Jayaraman of Community Environment Monitoring. “Environmentalists are against adopting the technologies denounced by the United States and the Europeon Union,” he added.

Corpn’s strict no to ragpickers

After criticism on the unauthorised burning of unsegregated solid waste at the Perungudi dumping ground, the corporation on Monday showed the door to 200-odd ragpickers who have been making a living from the waste there. The conservancy staff of the Mylapore zone chased away the ragpickers from the yard. “They were rounded off and transported in a conservancy vehicle to the Ice House zone amid stiff opposition. They have been asked to pick up valuable items in the transfer station of Neel Metal Fanalca (NMF),” a senior official said. The ragpickers are said to burn the garbage to get metals like copper and are unaware of the potential disaster. The corporation authorities have requested NMF to consider providing employment to the ragpickers, and NMF has agreed to offer streetcleaning jobs on a regular payscale. The ragpickers have a different take on the issue. Says V Muthulakshmi, a ragpicker: “The Perungudi site was much easier for us. We had an independent living. We made money daily and transportation was easy. But we cannot confine to a private company’s time-schedule.”

Julie Mariappan | TNN

TIMES CITY, The Times of India
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
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