Meet the people who are waging war on the garbage on Chennai's streets
Meet the people who are waging war on the garbage on Chennai's streets

Meet the people who are waging war on the garbage on Chennai's streets

Chennai Corporation has now deployed sanitation workers in several parts of the city, including some hired from other districts.

The road outside the “Slum Clearance Board” in Chennai’s West Mambalam has the stench of garbage and drainage water, the parting gifts of the flood waters that engulfed several parts of the city for days. But enter the colony, and it smells of fragrant lemon grass.  

With rains finally ceasing in Chennai, the Chennai Corporation has now deployed sanitation workers in several parts of the city, including some hired from other districts.

Although heaps of garbage are to be found in every part of the city that has been devastated by the floods, the corporation has deputed workers to clear the filth from three of the worst affected areas – West Mambalam, Saidapet and Jaffarkhanpet.

Garbage mounds in Jafferkhanpet

When this reporter visited the Slum Clearance Board on Wednesday, Selvaraj, who hails from Salem, could be seen walking in and out of the Slum Clearance Board colony in West Mambalam asking residents of the colony where they wanted the lemon grass oil to be sprinkled.

“Lemon grass oil is to kill the bacteria in the drainage-mixed water. It will also reduce mosquitoes in the area which have increased due to the rains”, Selvaraj said. On Tuesday, he had been sent to MGR Nagar.

“People think that this oil is just for smell and want us to sprinkle a lot in a single place. They do not realize that we have to cover so many houses in West Mambalam itself,” Selvaraj added.

Dressed in the Chennai Corporation’s uniform of the light green jacket for sanitation workers, 35-year-old Shekar hails from Tindivanam in Villupuram district. In all, 25 workers have been hired from the area by a private company carrying out clean-up work for the Corporation for 15 days. They will be paid about Rs.1,000 per day, he added.

“It takes time to clean every street and about two lorries of waste is collected from one street. We are definitely going to clean all the streets”, Shekhar says. The waste collected includes household items which were thrown onto the streets by residents after the rains ruined them.

“Our main work is to dispose the garbage, sprinkle bleaching powder in the sewage water and some of us also have to sprinkle anti-bacterial medicines on the streets,” said Shekhar,

Picking up chunks of garbage from the street from a street in Saidapet and dumping them into a corporation lorry, he said that they began work in the area on Tuesday and cleared two main roads. They would now move on to the inner streets, he added.

“We are trying our best to collect all the garbage and drain out the sewage water from the streets but the residents in the inner streets keep calling us and complaining about the condition inside,” Shekar said.

This is a constant refrain among residents and common in many areas. In most areas where clean-up operations have begun, such as Saidapet and West Mambalam, residents living on main roads are happy with the working of the Corporation. But those living in the inner streets are still waiting for help from the Chennai Corporation workers.

Radhakrishnan, who has a welding shop on East Jones Road, said that it took a whole day for the corporation workers to clear the garbage. But Vasanthi, whose shop is in an inner street nearby, said that it was impossible to walk on the roads with all the smell from the garbage. “The Corporation workers are working on the next street and have promised to come by Thursday to clean the waste”, she said.

Baby, a resident of Jafarkhanpet, cannot bear the stench in the locality but was aware that work in the inner areas would be done after the main roads. “They are doing their job well. I just want garbage to be removed from the front of my house. The smell reaches inside our home,” Baby said.

Rajkumar, another resident of the area said that the corporation workers had been sprinkling bleaching powder in the area for the past three days to kill fungal bacteria.

Some residents living in the Thirunagar area of Jafarkhanpet are upset with the long wait. “The corporation has just two vehicles and they have not come here even once in the past one week. There is so much garbage accumulated in this place. Till now, we do not have any disease but if garbage continues to be here we will get affected by it,” said Razul, a resident of Thirunagar.

Another resident of Thirunagar, Vijay told The News Minute that corporation officials had said that workers would come here in the next two days. “The smell is unbearable and it is also creating lot of mosquitoes here.”

Assistant Engineer at the Chennai Corporation Anand said that that workers had been working hard to remove garbage and clean roads for the past five days and that it would take little more time to reach the inside streets.

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