CHENNAI: Peaceful evenings have been a rarity in Besant Nagar’s MGR Colony as on most days the evening beach breeze often carries with it certain dangerous fumes coming from the Besant Nagar Crematorium, which is nestled right at the centre of the residential locale.
Even as residents in the area have repeatedly complained about the issue, the last credible action taken by the Corporation was when it raised the height of the chimney a few years ago. Although with a raised chimney, residents in the immediate vicinity of the crematorium have been spared of the fumes, their trouble does not seem to have disappeared but rather has been transferred to their neighbours.
Unmanned gates and an arch with no boards to denote its presence is what greets passersby at the crematorium. While the residents living outside the crematorium have problems with it, those present inside also do not seem free of them, as the workers inside lament that they haven’t been paid in two months. “Pollution control rules are certainly being flouted and there has hardly been any checking,” says a worker at the crematorium, who did not wish to reveal his identity.
When enquired about, Zonal Health Officials too confirmed that “no checks had been carried out in recent memory,” although the official maintained that norms were being strictly followed. With the raised chimney, residents in the vicinity seemed quite happy, however, for others such as G Muthuraman of Yellaiamman Koil Street, this is not the case. According to Muthuraman, “On most evenings, the breeze is accompanied by thick black smoke which carries with it an unbearable stench.” He adds, “We stay indoors on such evenings, but even then, many like me have complained of irritation in the throat because of the smoke.”
According to K Ramesh of MGR Colony, the raised chimney has meant that the smoke now reaches far and wide. “Before the chimney was raised the smoke used to dissipate in that locality itself, but now it is reaching till my house which is two streets away.” He adds, “Also it does not seem like they are using adequate wood for burning as there is also a terrible stench sometimes.”
However, the ones that bear the brunt of it seem to be those working in the dhobi kana situated right behind the crematorium. “We often bring our children along when we come here to wash clothes. While normally it is a peaceful place, when the chimney is burning it almost becomes impossible to work here. It is dangerous for the children too who often complain of a dry cough or irritation for days after,” says M Umayaal, who comes to wash clothes there.
K Jayashree, another resident of MGR Colony says, “It’s has been this way for years now.” She adds, “The authorities have taken no action in spite of repeated complaints.”
The crematorium has been a bone of contention between the authorities and the residents for many years now. Protests have been a common affair, which is what pressed the officials into raising the chimney height in the first place, informs N S Venkatraman of 4th Street, Besant Nagar. However, with authorities maintaining that everything is operated under norms, even without conducting checks, relief certainly seems a distant dream for these residents.