CHENNAI: Until last year, Thazhambur, a nondescript suburban locality in south Chennai, was plagued with civic issues and residents were exhausted filing complaints. But things have taken a dramatic turn. For the past few months, the locality has been buzzing with mass cleanliness drives and lake restoration campaigns.
It all started with a TOI report in April 2021 on how garbage was illegally dumped in the lake in the area and miscreants setting fire to it worsening air pollution. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) took suo motu cognizance of this and formed a panel to suggest workable solutions.
The panel confirmed ineffective solid waste management practices adopted by the local body and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) subsequently penalised it for violations. As a course-correction, state agencies cleared accumulated waste and developed a short-term action plan.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Thazhambur and the International Urban and Regional Cooperation, funded by the European Union, in mid-2021 to develop it into a model village for implementing a ‘Waste to Energy’ Project. Since then, top bureaucrats from various government departments have camped at the locality to transform it completely before 2023 ends.
In the first phase, separate bins were provided to residents for disposing wet and dry waste. A local farm and recycling unit were roped in to collect kitchen waste and e-waste separately from Thazhambur residents. Due to collector Rahul Nath’s involvement, a new dumping site was found, and a micro composting plant is expected to come up at this location to process the remaining solid waste deposited here.
Since the lake area was clean, the government with the help of NGOs organised a couple of tree plantation drives and currently there are around 1,000 trees surrounding the water body. With the lake vicinity turning green once again, migratory birds have returned to nest at the adjacent vacant lands, according to photos submitted before the tribunal.
Following this, sewage treatment plants (STPs) were installed to ensure that sewage generated by apartments were recycled before off-loading them into approved areas and today nearly 80% of the recycled water is used for watering the gardens there, the government told the tribunal. However, a section of residents rejected these claims and said that they were still hiring tankers to remove untreated sewage. Against this backdrop, judgement was reserved in this case by NGT last week.