CHENNAI: Residents of Chitlapakkam prefer to take their dead to the Sembakkam burial and cremation ground, over five kilometres away, for fear of laying their loved ones to rest among mounds of reeking garbage in their own burial and cremation ground at Chitlapakkam.
According to Chitlapakkam residents, the town panchayat has been using the already poorly maintained burial ground as a garbage dump site from time to time, clearing the garbage temporarily when residents raise complaints but continuing to dump it a few days later. While a large quantum of waste is usually dumped at the Chitlapakkam dump yard across the lake, residents said the panchayat staff uses the burial ground for convenience.
“This has been going on for almost a year now and we have raised several complaints so far. They clean it up when residents insist but they keep dumping it in trucks late in the evenings, and sometimes even during the mornings,” said Lakshmi, a resident.
When Express visited the spot, the burial ground was littered with waste and unkempt bushes. The ground had no gate, offering free access to anyone wanting to gain entry; portions of the wall at the entrance and some headstones lay broken. According to locals, the walls and headstones were damaged when garbage trucks entered and exited the ground.
Sixty-one-year-old K Govindaraj, a resident of Chitlapakkam, who has always lived here, said, “When I was around 15 years old, this space was allotted for burial ground. Now, residents take the bodies to Sembakkam instead because of the lack of maintenance here.”
Residents here including many members of the local Chitlapakkam Rising group, a citizen activist group, are on a vigil, ensuring that complaints are raised everytime garbage trucks enter the space.
B Sivakumar, a resident here for around 38 years, said, “It’s a matter of shame to us here. We hope the authorities clear it up and maintain it to ensure that the residents here are at peace, at least in death.”
A senior panchayat official that City Express spoke to said that strict orders have been issued to staff, forbidding them from dumping waste here at the burial ground. “We will clear the waste in a period of one week,” the official said.