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Garbage piles up in Chennai’s Urur Olcott Kuppam, while upscale Besant Nagar wears a clean face

A stone’s throw away from the upmarket Besant Nagar, huge piles of garbage lie at the door of Urur Olcott Kuppam and Thiruvallur Nagar.  No garbage collector has come by the neighbourhoods, comprising 980 households, in days.

The residents allege that the agency contracted for garbage collection discriminates between their neighbourhood and Besant Nagar. “The conservancy contractor Ramky Enviro Engineers is paid to treat all of Chennai equally. The fishing village is no less important than the VIP neighbourhood of Besant Nagar,” asserted K Saravanan, a representative of the Urur Olcott Kuppam village administration.

A study released by GarbageWatch, an initiative of The Other Media, reveals that there is “systematic discrimination in the levels of services offered to different localities within the study area.” The report states that according to Ramky’s micro-plan, Urur Olcott Kuppam and Thiruvallur Nagar would need three garbage collection personnel. But only two people are assigned to the area. On the other hand, Besant Nagar which requires only three personnel has been provided with four.

The residents add that even the two assigned personnel are not regular. “Among the two staff, only one person comes to collect garbage from the streets twice in a week. There is no door-to-door collection of garbage in the area,” said Sundaramoorthy another member of the village administration.

With the garbage lying around for some days, residents point, there is a mosquito menace in the area. “The truck comes and takes the garbage which is there inside the bin, but the trash lying on the ground is not picked up. There are many mosquitoes in the area,” said Uma, (39), a domestic help.

The report also found that the street sweeping plan extends to less than 50% of streets in Urur Olcott Kuppam and Thiruvallur Nagar, but serves 95% streets in Besant Nagar. This despite the fact that 20 of the 33 major garbage spots in the area, including six of the nine large hotspots are located within Olcott Kuppam and Thiruvallur Nagar.

The residents say that as a result, the onus of keeping their streets clean falls on them. “We separate all the waste and put it in the garbage bin. But no one comes and cleans the garbage. So nowadays, we ourselves are cleaning the streets around our houses,” said 40-year-old Uma, a fish seller.

The residents say the situation became worse after Ramky secured the contract in 2012. “From 2012, there have not been any cleaners coming to clean the area. Why are they ignoring us and not providing us with the basic facilities? Is it just because we do not have the power to protest?” asked Sundaramoorthy.

Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, who works closely in the area, says that systematic discrimination stands in the way of programmes like Swachh Bharat. “Swachh Bharat is a great slogan. On the ground, though, if you don’t address systematic discrimination, you can’t swachh anything.”

S Ravi, Zonal Head of Ramky Enviro Engineers, however, denied all allegations. “We clean the area daily, but the main problem is that people are not co-operative and they throw the garbage in different places.”

Ravi claimed that while the organisation sends cleaning staff for door-to-door collection, but the people in the area are obstructive. “They threaten our workers and also ask for money from our staff. We do two cleanliness programmes in the area every month, providing awareness to the public, and have placed garbage bins also. There are problems with our vehicles going into the inner area, but we clear one side really well,” he said.

He added that the cleaning in these areas happens every day from 11am to 1pm.   

Asked about the lower number of personnel in the area, “In these areas, our tricycles cannot go inside. So, we only send two people inside. Moreover, in that area most of the houses are very close. So only two people collect the garbage and then it is collected by the lorry from them,” said.

Source: The News Minute