CHENNAI: Accumulation of waste is a real challenge faced by both the public and government in Chennai city. After the Perungudi dump yard fire, the public and experts express concern about the plight of Kodungaiyur dump yard and the catastrophic impact of these landfills on both humans and the environment. Several field experts that DT Next interacted with swear by decentralised waste management and importantly adopting mitigation over restoration.
Sultan Ahmed Ismail, a soil biologist and ecologist said none of our cities has safe disposal areas for waste and managing waste is a huge problem for Tamil Nadu. “We do not have landfills. Instead, we are filling the land. Because a scientific landfill should have a non-permeable layer as the base and an organised arrangement of compostable waste with proper interludes of soil. However, to date, we barely have adopted any scientific principles to waste management.”
Ismail further goes on to say that mitigation should be given priority over restoration. “Humans cannot restore nature. We can only rehabilitate because nature restores itself. But for that to happen mitigation is required,” said Ismail.
Explaining various mitigation methods, Ismail detailed that not one but multi-layered strategies must be adopted for waste management. “Firstly, decentralised waste management should be encouraged and those causing pollution, including big firms, must be held accountable,” added Ismail. Calling for studying the local resources into consideration, Ismail pointed out that taking case studies from other countries or states does not necessarily have to work here. “Officials should learn the local resources here for proper waste management. One-size-fits-all cannot yield results,” explained Ismail.
Meanwhile, speaking about the Perungudi fire and its impact, S Janakarajan, water management expert and former professor at Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) said due to the encroachment and dump yard in the area, the ecosystem has been fully distorted.
“Pallikaranai marshland used to be 50 sqkm 40 years ago but is now reduced to about 3 square kilometres. The hydrological functioning of the marshland is critical for Chennai’s groundwater table and flood mitigation. However, now it has fully been distorted,” said Janakarajan.
“Currently, it is imperative to think of resource recovery plans as the environmental damage is deepening. Also, the public specifically economically well off should become aware as they mostly contribute to consumerism, ultimately generating excess wastage. GCC can only act to an extent, people should have responsibility. It’s high time GCC introduces training for solid waste management,” he added.