CHENNAI: A canal from Red Hills lake which drains excess water during monsoon is flanked by a garbage dump, resulting in leachate and possible contamination of water when the lake fills up.
The Red Hills lake, popularly known as ‘Puzhal lake’, serves as one of the biggest rain-fed reservoirs that serves the city. The lake can hold a maximum of 3,300 million cubic feet (mcft) of water. When the reservoir fills up, water drains out through the outlet that runs adjacent to the Ponneri highway. The outlet is surrounded by garbage dumps, which seems to have replaced grass and shrubs.
“We cannot remember when dumping of waste began here,” said Syed, who runs a biriyani eatery near the bridge, under which the canal passes. “I think it has been there for many months now though. I had my shop where the garbage heap is now to take advantage of truck drivers who come from other States and park their vehicles there. But, I had to move from there and have placed my shop about 300 metres away from the dump.”
The area adjacent to the canal is often used as a parking spot for truck drivers before commencing on their next trip. However, the garbage dump is a health concern for truck drivers. “With dengue spreading rapidly, we are scared to take rest in the vehicles,” said Jasinder from Punjab.Further, medical waste is allegedly being dumped there, adding to the problem.
“Medical waste is being dumped in the garbage hill,” said Naresh, who works in a shop. He claimed to have seen medical waste being dumped. “Trucks come here in the night and dump medical waste here.”
With the monsoon expected to set in early, the lake which now only has 356 mcft may fill up fast. Even if letting the water out through the canal does not happen, the garbage poses a threat of spreading dengue.
In order to clear the land for more garbage dumping, the heap is pushed further into the canal and clearance is done by burning the heap.
“The garbage has been there for a long time and has started to give out leachate, which is sliding into the canal that will carry water during floods,” said Anushree Ram, who is a part of an environmental group.
The smell of plastics along with other wastes spreads along the stretch. However, a Public Works Department official denied dumping of medical waste and told Express that the department was trying very hard to deal with the issue. The dump would be cleared within a couple of days, the official said.