Residents here face the same issues as those in other areas. With water bodies encroached, their homes are among the first to be inundated; garbage is dumped in any available land and encroachment of roads has led to traffic snarls
CHENNAI: Selvi holds her toddler in one hand as she cooks with the other. The smoke from her firewood stove fills her house with the smell of soot which mixes with the smell of rotting garbage.
Barely 10 feet away from where she cooks is a giant heap of solid waste accumulated from the residential areas of Iyyappanthangal, where she lives. Trapped between Sri Ramachandra Medical College, a leading private hospital in the city, and high-rise buildings lining A N Elumalai Salai, are hutments, houses and smaller apartments.
Aspiring for closer access to city, residents have occupied every piece of land available at.As a result of urbanisation, three major issues have arisen, according to residents. With water bodies encroached, their homes are among the first to be inundated; with no allocated space for garbage disposal, garbage is now being dumped in any available empty space and encroachment of roads has led to traffic congestion.
The mixing of stagnant water with waste has not just led to deterioration in quality of lifestyle, but also that of drinking water and air. Selvi’s one-and-half year old toddler fell seriously ill a week ago, only to be diagnosed with dengue symptoms. An unauthorised dumpyard near A N Elumalai Salai at Iyyappanthangal is leading to increasing cases of dengue in the neighbouring areas, allege residents. At least, two cases of dengue were reported in the last two weeks of December.
A toddler living in a panchayat hutment next to the dumpyard fell seriously ill last week after he developed symptoms of dengue. His mother blames it on the giant heap of garbage, which has not been cleared for the last two months.Shanthi, a resident of an apartment complex adjacent to the dumpyard said, “The garbage comes at night and hence we do not notice it coming in. A few months ago, officials promised to clear the space, but they ended up burning it instead,” she said.
A senior panchayat official told Express that there was no allocation for solid waste disposal. He pointed out that more people have moved into Iyyappanthangal panchayat, some even encroaching on empty lands, leaving little space for common purposes.“After a long struggle, we got permission from city corporation to add the garbage generated in our panchayat to their processing stations. We will have to pay for the loads of garbage, but it will be done,” the official said. However, a month after, no action has been taken. Currently, officials claimed to be working on temporary solutions, including dumping the waste in other empty areas.“We were dumping the waste near Porur lake. The place is polluted and it is risky to drive there,” said a panchayat worker.
Water stagnation woes
A month after the monsoon, parts of Iyyappanthangal continued to remain flooded in AN Elumalai Salai owing to encroachment and development on water body. “I filed a petition to remove the water stagnation and encroachment two years ago, after the Cyclone Vardah,” said P Senthil Kumar, a civic activist and resident. He says water stagnates only in low-lying land near his house and not around the high rise buildings. A permanent solution can be found only when the level of the area is raised, he said. With years of urbanisation, even groundwater has become unusable, residents complained.
Kalyana Sundaram, a 85-year-old resident in the area, rued, “Three decades ago, we used direct canal water for domestic use and groundwater for drinking. The groundwater has become so polluted now, we can’t even use it for washing clothes.” Local panchayat officials claim that the land does not belong to them, and hence they do not have authority over it.
When Express spoke to former and present Village Administrative Officers of Iyyappanthangal, they denied that these lands were encroached upon. “Stagnation is caused due to waterlogging, and the Public Works Department has already taken necessary steps. We guided the petitioner to meet other departments too. It is now up to Metro Water and the panchayat.”
Replying to this, Metro Water said it does not operate in the area. A panchayat official said they spent more than Rs 25,000 a month to clear the water, but it is impossible for them to find permanent solutions.
Encroachment on roads too
Kannappan, who comes to drop his granddaughter at the school near the main road, goes through a difficult time in the traffic on Mettu Road. The same is the case with hundreds of commuters who use AN Elumalai Salai. The reason is that Mettu Road and A N Elumalai Salai have shrunk. The map provided by CMDA shows Mettu Road to be 40 feet wide but in reality it is only 20 feet on an average. Mettu Road connects Mount Poonamallee High Road to Dhanalakshmi Nagar, where more than 600 families reside.
The road which runs up to SRMC police station looks wide enough, but after about 100 metres, turns narrow. A private land, secured with a huge compound wall that came up in September, has allegedly taken up half of the road. Even police officers wanted to clear the wall. A police official of the station puts it, “The wall came up all of a sudden and since then we have to deploy a policeman to manage traffic during office hours.”
He added that when they wanted to take action for demolishing the wall, the monsoon rain started. Hence, they had to concentrate more on the impact of the rain. “The huge walls that run for more than about 200 metres become an excuse for other shop owners to extend their shops to the same limit. They promise to move the shops, if the wall is removed,” says Kannappan, a former Village Administrative Officer of Iyyappanthangal Panchayat.
The Additional Director of Panchayats claimed that she never knew about the road encroachments and promised to look into the issue.