CHENNAI: Motorists from the suburbs entering the city through the Chennai Bypass are welcomed with suffocating smoke at the Maduravoyal flyover. The land under the bridge is being used a domestic waste collection point by the Vanagaram town panchayat. In addition to bearing the stench of rotting kitchen waste, motorists also have to brave the carcinogenic smoke of the smoldering plastic.
“The collection smolders continuously. Once a week lorries and JCBs come and collect the burnt waste but a new load of waste arrives every morning,” says a security guard at a nearby construction site.
With only commercial establishments coming up in the immediate vicinity and the smoke affecting motorists who’d rather hold their breath and swish past the odour than ask questions, the town panchayat has been avoiding public outcry.
“Where else can we dump the garbage which accumulates?,” asks Geethalakshmi Shankar, a former town panchayat leader. “For the last five years we have been asking for a two-acre collection point in Vanagaram which has many ‘poromboke’ lands but no land has been assigned, he says. “We clear the waste every week and take it to Kodungaiyur dumpyard. Clearing four loads last month cost us `2,00,000 for JCBs and tractors,” claims V Karunakaran, the panchayat secretary.
Karunakaran reveals that there was an arrangement made to let Ayyapakkam and Vanagaram to dump their waste in a dumpyard near Avadi. However with locals protesting against other towns dumping their waste there, Ayapakkam and Vanagaram were forced to take their waste to Kodungaiyur which is 25 km away.
With no local collection point being allocated and the closest dumpyard 25 km away, the Vanagaram town panchayat are forced to use the land belonging to the NHAI as a collection point.
HM Naqvi, the regional officer for the NHAI, was unavailable for comment. Karunakaran and the other panchayat officials admit to dumping domestic waste but shy away from the smoke.
“The deranged rag-pickers who sift through the waste sometimes set fire to the collection point,” claims Karunakaran. “Their beedis must have fell down,” he says.