Environment and citizens' groups across the southern suburbs of Chennai, capital city of southern Indian state Tamil Nadu , are angry. They demand the State government take to task sewage tanker operators who are emptying raw, untreated sewage into open places, vacant housing plots and water bodies.
The demand is being made by Evergreen Exnora - South Rajakilpakkam Federation for Environment Protection . The group was formed with initiatives from a small group of residents of Tellus Avenue, Sivasakthi Nagar, Kaushik Avenue and surrounding areas that come under Sembakkam town panchayat, near Tambaram.
Members and office-bearers of the group are ready to point out the vast open tracts of housing plots which now lie under layers of sewage let out by the tankers. Volunteers from Evergreen Exnora conducted a round-the-clock survey recently and caught 40 lorry loads of sewage being let out into plots in Tellus Avenue.
As each lorry had a capacity of 12,000 litres, several lakh litres of sewage are being let out into the open and also near the sprawling Vengaivaasal Lake. The movement of the sewage tankers have also severely damaged the metal roads in the localities, allege the group members. When a couple of residents tried to confront the tanker operators, they were threatened by a hostile crew, they report.
Volunteers, who have documented the problem say tanker operators have also sunk cement pipes below the metal roads to transport sewage to the farthest corner. A direct consequence of this problem is contamination of farm wells in the locality and a dip in the quality of water drawn from bore wells sunk by residents, they bemoan.
According to A.R.D. Loganathan, president of Sembakkam town panchayat, following complaints from the residents, the local body had prevented operators from letting out sewage and also warned them of severe action if the operators continued.
As the problem was not restricted to Rajakilpakkam alone, it was time the State government viewed it more seriously. Engineers of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board say as per norms, sewage tanker operators are allowed to dispose of wastes only at Chennai Corporation's treatment plant in Perungudi, and that too after making a payment of Rs. 100 per load.
They had pulled up several operators who violated the rules. Activists believe that as a trip to Perungudi would mean more fuel consumption, the operators prefer to dispose sewage locally. The consequences are disastrous as land and water quality suffer irreparable damage, they say.
The government should form a monitoring committee with representation from the police, local bodies and other government departments to eliminate the menace, the residents argue.
Similar appeals have been made in the past by civic and environment groups in Tambaram, Pallavaram and Pallikaranai, but till date there has been no response from the government.