Who’s Shit Is It Anyways?

October, last year, the whole of Kerala rose in outrage against three containers of Garbage that was imported from New York to Kochi by a private company. A good part of the outrage was against using Kochi as a dumping ground for garbage generated in the US. Though what is happening in Chakkamkandam Backwaters is repetition of the same story, it is not invoking the same outrage somehow.

Excreta and human and non-human organic waste from 110 odd lodges and a number of marriage auditoriums, chatrams run by the Guruvayur Devaswom Board and restaurants are being let out into what used to be rain-water drainage systems which leads to the back waters that affect about a dozen panchayats outside Guruvyur Municipal limits, translated in people terms more than 1500 families ' most of whom are dependant on backwaters for their livelihood, be it fishing or coir making.

The question here in the first instance is how these lodges run without a working septic tank. Logically follows the question on how the Guruvayur Municipal Corporation allows these lodges etc. to function thus. The legal questions have been answered by the Supreme Court of India long back. Justice Krishna Iyer delivering the judgment in Municipal Corporation of Ratlam vs.Vardichand and Others AIR 1980 SC 160 accepted the use of sec. 133 CrPC for removal of public nuisance and observed that a responsible municipal council is constituted for the precise purpose of preserving public health. Further, in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India WP 12739/1985, Justice Bhagwati upheld the principle of 'Polluter Pays' in the case of Oleum Gas leak from a private company called Shriram Fertilizers and diluted the principle of locus standi holding the state equally responsible for the pollution.

In the case of excreta from Guruvyur lodges, the facts take a grotesque turn, where in the first place the Municipal Corporation has not enforced a legal obligation on the part of the lodge owners to construct and operate functional septic tanks to deal with human excreta and other wastes on one hand. And then facilitates the release of the same into an area outside their jurisdiction, which on top of all illegalities falls within the Coastal Regulatory Zone. To add insult to the injury that the Corporation is inflicting on this hapless people, they have also planned a sewage treatment plant filling parts of the backwaters that is outside their jurisdiction. The comedy of this plan is that the plant was planned at a cost of Rupees 4.4 Million in 1982, when Rs.5.5 Million already had been spent, and all one gets o see of it is an asbestos tool shed on a part of the backwaters that has been filled for this purpose.

The findings of an independent fact-finding team comprising Dr. P. R. Sreemahadevan Pillai, Dr. C.M. Joy, Dr. Sarah Joseph and Er. P.C. Alexander that visited Chakkamkandam on Thursday, 17 January 2008, is reproduced below: 

  • All what the local people said are evidenced by the condition in-situ

  • Valiyathodu (the canal leading to the backwaters) has become a breeding centre for mosquitoes and the putrefaction of wastes takes place all along the course of the canal.

  • Chakkamkandam backwaters have been partially filled with the sludge from the decomposition of the night soil.

  • The mangroves in the backwaters recess at many places is in the dying stage

  • The waters acquired by the municipality is in an inhabited area and filling of this is in violation of the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) Act of the Government of India.

  • Most of the coir manufacturing units around the kayal have been closed

  • Skin and intestinal diseases are very common among the Chakkamkandam people

  • The people here are helpless and not organized. They curse their destiny. The drinking water supply is also not functioning properly.

  • If the sewage treatment plant is set up here, the effluent, treated as well as untreated will be disposed in to the kayal directly, making it a dead and infectious lagoon.

  • Even the ground water at Guruvayur is polluted. We have tested the water of the Guruvayur temple pond at the Environmental Engineering Laboratory of the Government College of Engineering, Thrissur and found that the MPN count for coliforms is 1100 / 100 ml and the BOD (3 days, 270C) is 22.8 mg/L. The permissible level of MPN for drinking water is 50 and for bathing water 500 as per Central Pollution Control Board.  The BOD permitted is 2 and 3 mg/L respectively. The presence is far beyond the permissible level and it indicates that the temple town should take initiative to clean up its wastes to protect its own water.

The impunity with which the lodge owners and the Guruvayur Municipal Corporation has acted without consideration for the livelihood and hygiene of over a dozen adjacent panchayats, directly affected by the pollution and the proposed sewage plant can be evidenced by a petition filed before the Kerala High Court O.P. No. 19891 of 1997, where the affected communities went unrepresented and the material facts were not placed before the court, thereby obtaining an order clearing the way for the sewage plant. Further, till date there has been no effort at consulting with the populations that are directly affected by the pollution or would be affected by the outdated proposal for a sewage treatment plant.

The questions that need to be asked here is whether the residents around Chakamkandam Backwaters should pay for the profits being made by the lodge, hotel and auditorium owners of Guruvayur? Should the Guruvayur Municipal Corporation be complicit in facilitating this profit? And finally, does not the Municipal Corporation have a responsibility to enforce working excretion disposal mechanisms ' septic tanks or otherwise in these establishments?


More by :  Bobby Kunhu

Top | Environment

Views: 3295      Comments: 2

Comment too bad still we say we are civilised
putting our residues to others well

02-Sep-2011 01:31 AM

Comment Great and valuable report about Chakkamkandam....
thank you..

03-Jan-2011 03:17 AM

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