Dwelling with sewage: Fishing hamlets in Chennai’s Kottivakkam see no finish to drainage woes


A fishing family in Kottivakkam.
The fishing neighborhood alongside the coastal areas in Chennai’s ECR have been dwelling with out drainage facility for years. Pic: Korah Abraham

As one takes a left flip from the East Coast Street or the ECR, because it’s popularly recognized in Chennai, into the Kuppam highway in Kottivakkam, which results in the Kottivakkam seashore, a way of calm units in. An entire distinction from the bustling principal highway, which is just some metres away. This sense of calm can be seen within the residents of the Kottivakkam kuppam (Tamil for hamlet), most of whom you can see unwinding on a weekday night.

The ladies folks, after having completed their day’s work of promoting fish are huddled in a single nook of the highway adjoining to the seashore on bamboo mats, intent on a sport of cube, whereas the older males kind their very own teams, taking part in a sport of playing cards. They wait for his or her sons to return again from the ocean with the catch to be offered the subsequent morning. 

But this relaxed setting and the obvious image of pleasure, bonhomie and contentment belies a persistent drawback that they’ve been dealing with for years now, one thing that has turn out to be part of their day by day life – open gutters with overflowing sewage water and week-old rubbish strewn throughout the seashore and their houses, inflicting a extreme stench and critical well being hazards.

Kottivakkam seashore. Pic: Korah Abraham

“We have now been dwelling with this stench for years now, and it has turn out to be part of our lives,” says 41-year-old Selvakumar with a tragic smile. The rationale for this, as cited by a lot of the different residents within the village, is the shortage of a drainage system, not simply in Kottivakkam but additionally within the different coastal villages alongside the ECR like Palavakkam, Neelankarai and Uthandi.

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Issues confronted by the residents

Through the years, the residents of the hamlet have needed to make their very own drainage trench or open gutters outdoors their houses to set free their semi stable or liquid waste from the kitchen and bogs. These gutters are cleaned solely at irregular intervals by the authorities, so that there’s a pile up of sewage more often than not. This begins to trigger a extreme stench and creates a breeding floor for mosquitoes. The state of affairs will get worse through the monsoon, when the sewage water overflows and enters their houses.

The helplessness was stark within the phrases of 36-year-old Velappan who mentioned that a number of journalists have come to their village up to now to cowl the difficulty however nothing has come out of it. “Reporters will come, communicate to us, get their story and go however we get nothing out of it,” says Velappan, a fisherman whose household has been dwelling in Kottivakkam seashore for the previous many generations. 

Through the years, the residents of the hamlet have needed to make their very own drainage trench or open gutters outdoors their houses to set free their semi stable or liquid wastes from the kitchen. Pic: Korah Abraham
Pic: Korah Abraham

The one approach through which residents have voiced their grievances is by complaining to the employees from the Chennai Metropolitan Water Provide and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), once they come by to produce water, or to the employees from the Larger Chennai Company (GCC) who come as soon as in a few months to gather the rubbish. It’s not recognized whether or not these complaints have reached senior authorities in any respect.

“The one time when authorities even acknowledge our existence is when elections are across the nook. In any other case no one bothers to take heed to us and we additionally don’t know whom to complain to?” says 75-year-old Pavanamma. There’s a sewage gutter proper in entrance of Pavanamma’s home, which is closed with cement slabs, which is hardly sufficient as there are nonetheless gaps the place the sewage flows into their home when it will get full. 

Pavanamma, in entrance of her home. It’s also possible to see the cement slabs overlaying the gutter. Pic: Korah Abraham

“Normally when our gutters get clogged, we ourselves should deliver a stick or a pole, or typically even use our naked palms, to unclog it,” says 40-year-old Omiya. However clogged or not, the homes haven’t any choice however to set free their sewage water straight into the seashore, which can also be the place they arrange stalls to promote fish, meals and different gadgets for the general public.

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Ecological influence and well being hazard

In coastal areas like this, the results of a scarcity of correct drainage system can transcend dangerous odour and unhygienic dwelling situations. The influence it will probably have on the individuals and the communities close by are multifold, in keeping with TD Babu, a marine biologist.

Because the sewage water from the gutter flows into the seashore, the sand has began to erode inflicting a small pit like construction. “When there’s excessive tide, the waves come deeper into the shores. So, from one aspect, you will have the ocean coming into the land, and from the opposite aspect, there’s the water (sewage water from the open gutters) going into the seashore. This accelerates the method of coastal erosion. So when there are storms or heavy tides, there are excessive possibilities of a man-made catastrophe leading to habitat destruction within the hamlet,” says TD Babu.

Satellite tv for pc view of the Kottivakkam Kuppam. The black patch proven within the picture is the erosion prompted as a result of sewage water and the tides.

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A lot of the actions of the fishing communities and even of these from the non-fishing communities residing close by happen on the seashore. Generally, individuals from different locations additionally go to the seashore for leisure actions. Folks dip their toes within the sea, which is combined with sewage water from the gutter. This will trigger numerous sorts of pores and skin illness. Youngsters play within the sand which the polluted water flows into, after which they go have meals from the close by stalls with out washing their palms. The meals from these stalls are additionally more likely to be contaminated, provided that poisonous water usually flows into these stalls and will come into contact with the meals, inflicting diarrhoea and different infections amongst those that eat it.

Pic: Korah Abraham

As a result of excessive permeability of sandy seashores and because of the erosion prompted as a result of excessive tides and sewage water, the thickness of the sandbed will get lowered, thus polluting the groundwater desk. “When a filtering medium turns into skinny, it received’t be capable to maintain on to large quantities of water and breaks simply,” provides Babu.

‘Govt should take duty’

In locations just like the Foreshore property, which is one other fisher settlement alongside Chennai’s Marina seashore, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board had constructed a number of condominium complexes for the fishermen households who used to reside in makeshift houses earlier. Due to this, Babu feels that there’s a uniformity among the many dwelling models in that space and correct methods. However within the fishing hamlets like Kottivakkam kuppam alongside the ECR, the resident households had themselves constructed the buildings generations in the past, in a haphazard method, which makes it tough for upkeep. 

“Authorities ought to come ahead and supply correct housing for the fishing communities alongside the ECR as nicely, so that it’ll streamline many points like sewage disposal, water connection, electrical energy connection and even rubbish clearance,” provides the marine biologist. 

Homes in Kottivakkam are constructed in a haphazard method, leading to streets with slender and uneven house, making it tough for upkeep. Pic: Korah Abraham

Nonetheless, KP Kosalaraaman, Zonal President of Sholinganallur (East), Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, says that the successive governments within the state have turned a blind eye in direction of the fishing hamlets of Kottivakkam, Palavakkam and Uthandi. “In the case of Kottivakkam, the first focus of the federal government is to offer amenities for the comparatively well-off sections of society, which suggests the socially and economically privileged sections,” says Kosalaraman. He provides that the fishermen of the kuppam are ‘mere statistics’ within the bigger listing of voters for politicians.

Citizen Issues tried reaching out to officers of the GCC and CMWSSB to search out out why the drainage concern has not been solved for years, and what it could take to vary the state of affairs. A senior zonal officer from the GCC mentioned that he was unaware in regards to the concern itself and acknowledged that he would research the matter. Nonetheless, there was no response from CMWSSB.

Calls for of the neighborhood

In keeping with Kosalaraaman, a lot of the coastal areas that fall beneath the GCC, after Thiruvanmiyur in direction of the ECR highway, wouldn’t have correct connection to a piped drainage community. 

In 2018, through the tenure of the AIADMK authorities, the Chennai Company had began the development of storm water drains within the coastal areas of Kotivakkam, Palavakakam, Neelankarai and Uthandi. Nonetheless, following extreme opposition from the residents of those coastal areas, the Madras HC in 2020 stayed the development of the stormwater drains. “From Kottivakkam to Uthandi, round 12 tunnels have been constructed for the storm water drains. These have been all related to the ocean. However given that there have been no separate sewage connections or community, when it rains, the rain water combined with sewage from the roads would stream by way of these tunnels into the ocean, polluting it. That’s why it was objected to,” says Kosalaraaman. 

In December final 12 months, Kosalaraaman, who can also be from the fishermen neighborhood of Kottivakkam, and numerous representatives from the coastal areas and members of the Communist social gathering handed over a memorandum to Aravind Ramesh, MLA of Sholinganallur meeting constituency with a listing of their calls for, which included:

  • Sewage strains to be constructed and linked to the drainage community in close by Thiruvalluvar Nagar.
  • Till such a hyperlink is established, widening of the present sewage canals and correct cleansing as soon as per week to take care of hygiene and security
  • All homes should have entry to scrub water from the Nemmeli desalination plant.

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Talking to Citizen Issues, S Aravind Ramesh MLA mentioned that he had mentioned the difficulty with Chief Minister MK Stalin and that funds have been allotted for the aim of organising the drainage system. “We’re within the tender course of now and as soon as the work begins, it is going to take a minimal of 5 years for it to be accomplished and prepared to be used,” he mentioned.

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