Fire continues to blaze in Perungudi landfill, toxic smoke spreads over parts of Chennai

The residential neighbourhood of Velachery continues to bear the brunt of the fumes from the fire, which broke out in the Perungudi dump yard at 12.30 pm on Wednesday, April 27.
Fire in Chennai's Perungudi landfill
Fire in Chennai's Perungudi landfill
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The Chennai Corporation is struggling to douse the massive fire that continues to blaze in the Perungudi landfill more than 26 hours after it started. Thick toxic fumes from the burning garbage have now spread over a 6 km radius, and Velachery, a residential neighbourhood close to Pallikaranai and Perungudi, is reportedly the worst affected locality.

The fire, which started at 12.30 pm on Wednesday, April 27, was noticed by staff members working in the western part of the massive garbage dump. They tried to douse it, but were not successful. At 2 pm they called the fire control services, according to reports. As on Thursday, 10 fire engines and a sky lift were being used by fire rescue forces to extinguish the blaze. Fire rescue personnel from stations in Thoraipakkam, Medavakkam, Thiruvamiyur, Ashok Nagar and Velachery have been deployed at the spot.

In several parts of Chennai, including Velachery, Besant Nagar, Adambakkam, Guindy and others, residents have noticed smoke spreading in the sky. The smoke is likely to increase the air pollution levels in the city for the day. It has also affected the health of residents apart from the local flora and fauna.

“Children below the age of five, persons with cardio-respiratory conditions, asthamtic patients, people with weak immunity, etc. can be particularly affected by the smoke they are now being exposed to. The local fauna too is likely to face distress, over and above the abuse they face on a daily basis with marshland takeover and illegal consutrctions,” says writer and environmentalist activist Nityanand Jayaraman. According to reports, night herons in the Pallikaranai marshland have been spotted flying away, possibly due to the fire and the fumes.

This is not the first time that the Perungudi dumpyard – spread over 125 acres and overflowing with 3.63 million cubic metres of accumulated waste – is catching fire. “The cause of the fire is purely illegal. It is a clear indication that organic waste is being dumped in the landfill. As per the Municipal Solid Waste guidelines, organic waste must not be dumped in landfills. The organic waste lying for weeks or months in the landfill decomposes, raising the temperature. This garbage also does not breathe as more and more garbage is dumped over it. This creates pockets of methane inside which spontaneously combusts,” explains Nityanand. He adds that water will only increase the flammability of the garbage and will not help in putting out the fire.

A Twitter user tweeted the Air Quality Index details from a real-time monitoring station in Perungudi, which shows an hourly increase in the air pollution levels in the locality over the last 24 hours. It also shows a rise in airborne Particulate Matter 10 and carbon monoxide over the last 24 hours.

KN Nehru, Minister for Municipal Administration, Priya Rajan, Greater Chennai Corporation Mayor, GCC Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi along with Regional Deputy Commissioner Simranjeet Singh Kahlon visited the location to inspect the fire dousing operations in the dump. TNM also spoke to the Corporation Zonal Officer from the region who said that “things should be under control by Thursday evening”.

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