Waste plant in Tamil Nadu raises stink

Residents say the project will contaminate drinking water; pollution board gives clean chit

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Tuesday 14 December 2010

Residents of Kuthambakkam village in Thiruvallur district, 30 km west of Chennai, have started an online campaign against the state’s plan to construct an integrated solid waste management facility on 26 hectares (ha) of grazing land in the village. The project is awaiting clearance from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority.

The project site lies in the catchment area of the Chembarambakkam lake, one of the water sources for Chennai. “The lake is hardly 6 km from the site and there are streams around the village that drain into the lake,” said S Nandakumar, a Kuthambakkam resident involved in the campaign. Once completed, the facility will process garbage from six municipalities of Chennai such as Ambattur and will use 16 ha as landfill. The garbage will be segregated at source before it is brought for composting and making bricks at Kuthambakkam. But, said Nandakumar, “we have been told the segregation plan won’t be implemented for another five years.

So it’s obvious the garbage will be dumped in the landfill”. He added, our groundwater level is very high and this can lead to leachate mixing with water. After a site visit in October 2008, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s expert committee had said the area was unsuited given the high groundwater level and the site’s location in the lake’s catchment area. Still, the board gave a no-objection certificate to the project.

The facility is to come up on common land vested with the Kuthambakkam panchayat. The land was transferred to the revenue department for the waste plant. This transfer, according to the residents, was done without the consent of the panchayat, and, as per a resolution of the gram sabha, common land cannot be handed over to the revenue department. During a public hearing in September 2010, residents had opposed the project. But the minutes of the meeting said there was little resistance.

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