Lab waste dumped in IIT Madras campus allege activists, institute denies

Activists say that if not cleaned up, the toxic waste can endanger the wildlife on campus.
Lab waste dumped in IIT Madras campus allege activists, institute denies
Lab waste dumped in IIT Madras campus allege activists, institute denies
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Test tubes, conical flasks, shards of glass and other lab waste are piled near a coconut tree. This picture of environmental neglect is from the prestigious IIT Madras, where waste from its bio-technology laboratory has been carelessly dumped on the road adjacent to the department building.

While the administration at IIT-Madras say that the picture of the lab waste is old, activists disagree, pointing out that such dumping could be toxic for the campus’ wildlife.

“An inside source from the campus sent me photos and videos. The waste includes toxic chemicals which can prove to be fatal to the deer if they venture near the bottles and lick its contents. There are broken glass pieces as well which could cut snakes and other wildlife in the campus,” said Antony Rubin, an animal activist from Chennai.

And contrary to IIT Madras’s claims, he says, “I am really shocked and saddened by this. The management maintains that these are old pictures. In fact, even I couldn’t believe it until photos were sent along with the day’s newspaper to prove that these aren’t old photos. I have asked them to at least clean up the glass and bottles so that animals don’t get hurt. I hope they have done it.”

The 250-acre campus in the heart of Adyar is an eco-sensitive zone home to several wildlife including deer, blackbuck and snakes.

IIT Madras was hauled up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in November last year for endangering the blackbuck on campus.  The tribunal had then ordered IIT-Madras to remove all solid waste and construction from the campus in a week, warning of imposing costs by invoking the polluter’s principle if it failed to do so.

The NGT’s directive to the premier institute was in response to the petition filed by Antony Rubin asking for a complete ban on non-recyclable plastics in the IIT campus, to shift fests like Shaastra, Saarang and other events, which draw a large crowd and to minimise the number of vehicles.

He had moved the NGT following an RTI reply that stated that 220 deer and 8 blackbucks had died at the IIT- campus between 2014 and 2016.  

“All wildlife is very sensitive, especially deer. The bright lights during Saarang confuse them, construction debris dumped in the campus block their known routes and plastic ingestion makes them unhealthy and slow. If a wounded deer is not treated sensitively, they usually die of cardiac arrest. So, all the more reason to ensure a safe and secure environment for them,” argues Antony.

IIT Madras had, however, blamed the deaths on the increasing number of stray dogs in the campus and had told NGT that efficient process for solid waste management is in place.

But Antony alleges that wildlife on campus continue to be under threat.  “I heard from sources that over 5 blackbucks have died in the campus post the interim order,” said the activist. 

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