Waste dumpsites choke Chennai

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Wednesday 31 January 2007

-- a recent report on the ambient air quality around Chennai's Kodungaiyar waste dumpsite has sent out a strong health warning to over 100,000 residents living in its vicinity. Everyday, the Corporation of Chennai dumps around 3,200 tonnes of waste either at Kodungaiyar or the nearby Perungudi dumpyard.

Released by a Chennai-based ngo, Community Environmental Monitoring (cem) in December 2006, the report notes the presence of nine chemicals in the ambient air of Kodungaiyar.

An air sample taken by the ngo was analysed for 69 volatile organic compounds and 20 sulphur gases at the Columbia Analytical Services in Simi Valley, California, under us environmental protection agency (usepa) norms.Analysis showed that five of the chemicals exceeded permissible levels of usepa, out of which three--1,2-dichlorobenzene, benzene and chloromethane--are known carcinogens. The data also indicated that unsegregated wastes, including medical wastes and plastics, is being openly burnt at Kodungaiyar. Following the report, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has issued a show-cause notice to the corporation.

"cem first noted the presence of poisonous chemicals in the ambient air of the dumpyards in 2004. Subsequently, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes directed the central pollution control board to set standards for the dumpyards, but all in vain," says Dharmesh Shah, the author of cem's 2006 report. In September 2005, cem again monitored the air quality at Perungudi and found 27 toxic chemicals including three carcinogens. Following public protests, the state pollution control board and the department of environment banned dumping of wastes at the dumpyards. But the corporation still continues to dump wastes.

According to P Ganesan of Kaviarasu Kannadasan Nagar Citizens Welfare Association, "deteriorating air and groundwater quality is now leading to increasing cases of upper respiratory tract diseases and cancer."

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