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Vol. XXXII No. 11, September 16-30, 2022

Our Readers Write

More storm water woes

Many thanks for carrying an article on the woes of Chennai residents brought on by storm water drains. Perhaps the point that was missed out relates to unplanned excavation work very close to roots of trees and in many cases under the roots too. Many trees have been cut when the GCC realises that it was no longer safe, but who is really responsible for making them unsafe. Its the poor planning and lackadaisical executionby contractors who are not sensitised about the potential pitfalls of unsafe excavation. 

With such shoddy work, the CM exhorting people to grow more trees has just turned to be lip service.

Srikanth Narayan
A4, Bhamini Terrace, 15, Bhimanna Garden Road.
Alwarpet, CHENNAI 600018

Nostalgia

I stumbled on the internet edition and read your feature on trams in old Madras. My brother and I attended typing classes in Luz Corner by trams when we were 11 and 12.

Even more nostalgic was the feature on Dr. Kesari. I attended Kesari high school (class topper, 1953). We walked to school from Sripuram Street, carrying our book bags and tiffin boxes. 

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s grandson was a classmate. Many prominent Madarasi  Telugus sent their kids to Kesari High School. By the way, Dr. Kesari’s adopted daughter Vasanta was our senior by 3 years at Kesari High School on Royapettah High Road, Mylapore.

Later on, I went on to QMC, and then to Harvard. Even ended up teaching at Harvard. 

Thanks for evoking great memories, about Trams in ­Madras and much more.

Nirmala Devi, Ph.D (Harvard)
Washington DC, USA

TNPCB needs to step up

This refers to the report ‘Environmental scares signal urgent need for TNPCB to step up action’ (MM, Aug 1st). Following the LPG-like odour felt by the nearby residents, causing nausea, breathlessness, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had directed Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd [CPCL], Manali, to scale down its production to 75 per cent. In Manali itself, there are other down-stream industries which are dependent on CPCL for their major raw materials. They too manufacture petro products. Considering the nature of the products these units put together produce, Manali can be easily described as a ‘chemical zone’. While each of these units have their own systems to ensure that they operate within the parameters and do not cause environmental pollution by adopting measures to contain the same, instances such as the one being witnessed now cannot be ruled out in the long run.

It is in this context that the role of the State Pollution Board assumes importance. The report states that the TNPCB does not have enough teeth to deal with the situation. Even if it does not have enough powers to take on these industries head on, TNPCB can still make its presence felt by undertaking periodic inspections to check all levels of pollution. The fault with the State agencies is that they wake up only when there is a hue and cry. On their own, they do not undertake impromptu inspections, as mandated by the law. If only the TNPCB had initiated steps to check the pollution, more so in industrial zones, the complaints such as the above could have been averted. This is not to blame the industries, as they too have the systems in place. And that they definitely have a role to play to check and contain the pollution. It must be mentioned that these industries have been permitted to operate only after due verification of various systems they have in place. It may be worth recalling that quite recently, the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal [NGT] had asked three units located close-by CPCL in Manali, to pay an interim environmental compensation of Rs. 2 crore, Rs.1 crore and Rs.10 lakh respectively for causing marine pollution. When these units had made a submission that zero liquid discharge [ZLD] was not possible, the Bench stated that nothing is impossible in view of the improvement in the technology. The Bench further directed the units to engage with the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to conduct a study regarding the feasibility of introducing ZLD for discharge of effluents generated within their units to avoid marine discharge in a phased manner.

While setting up industries, particularly the Units making petro-products like CPCL, the companies must have submitted the detailed list of products they manufacture, its impact on the environment, and the measures which they will put in place to nullify the adverse effect, et al. The authorities may have also sought an independent report from its own pool of experts. In case of any leak or any other such happenings which is quite possible in the day today functioning of the plant despite checks and balances, the company must have drawn up measures to prevent these happenings. Thus, only after knowing the impact, could the authorities have given the nod to set up the industries. The fact that the area is kind of chemical zone, in view of the concentration of units manufacturing petroleum-based products, and, the potential danger to the environment and other habitats, including human – notwithstanding the sustained efforts to mitigate the same by the units themselves – how did the authorities allow the residential colonies to come up in the proximity to the industrial area? The government of the day can boast of bringing in investments amounting to crores of rupees for the State but in doing so, long term aspects need to be weighed down so as to avert any possible fall out. The recent cases in point are the thermo-meter plant of Hindustan Unilver in Kodaikanal and Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin, These are the direct fall out of the Government’s ‘act first-think later’ policy. At least in future, the government would do well to consider all long term aspects prior to allowing the industries to set up business. 

V.S. Jayaraman 
31, Motilal Street, Chennai 600 017

Edward Elliots Beach – Chennai’s Pride or Shame?

by Ramesh Sundararajan
ramjisundar20@gmail.com

Elliot’s Beach aka Besant Nagar Beach or simply Bessie is named for Edward Elliot, who once served as the Chief Magistrate, Superintendent of Madras and Governor of Chennai during colonial times. The beach also houses the Kaj Schmidt Monument in memory of the Danish sailor who drowned while trying to save an English girl. Located at the southern end of Marina Beach, Elliot’s Beach is a happening place and a favourite hangout spot, especially amongst families and youngsters. 
 
Over the years, the beach has witnessed several disturbing developments thanks to crass commercialisation and a lack of civic awareness. The changes have eaten away at the tranquility of the place, resulting in many early morning walkers choosing to stay away. The sand on the beach is shrinking daily, thanks to the unregulated mushrooming of so-called eateries and amusement kiosks. What was once a single row of a couple of shops a few years ago has now expanded to 6 rows with more than 300 shops. I understand that there are plans to accord permission for an additional 300 shops, too – at this rate, there will be no beach sand left anymore for future generations. Who is to be blamed for this mess? I suppose the locals, shop keepers, civic authorities and the visiting public all have equal share in this. There is an urgent need to regulate shops to remain in earmarked areas so that the remainder of the beach can be free of litter.

Another problem is on account of the stench emanating from open defecation, despite toilets being made available. Even the Governor’s bungalow that stands right in the middle of the beach has not been spared – it is filled with stench and has excreta smeared on its walls.  

The Broken Bridge connecting Besant Nagar with Foreshore Estate is in a state of neglect, too. The approach road from Besant Nagar beach is wreathed in darkness and sports a proliferation of wild greenery and dense bushes. It has become a convenient environment for all kinds of nefarious activities in the night. 

The need of the hour is a concerted effort to build public awareness about the issues plaguing Elliots Beach. There should also be a provision to levy stiff fines on defaulters who inflict damage. Here, the role of NGOs and Corporates is very important – after all, almost every weekend sees marathons and beach runs in which the youngsters of our city participate with gusto. Without their support, no amount of ‘beach cleaning campaigns’ will serve a purpose. It is high time that the cause is taken up in earnest, lest it becomes too late – or is it already too late, I wonder? Given that Marina Beach has improved considerably, why is Bessie being ignored?

This was highlighted to the local Corporator, along with other issues relating to the beach. The Corporator gave an assurance that the matter would be taken up with the authorities. Let us hope and pray that the Government’s push towards shoreline improvement and Blue Flag Beach certification will help transform our beaches for the better, making them the pride of Singara Chennai. 

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