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article imagePhoto story: Living dirty in India Special

By Varun B. Krishnan     Oct 28, 2012 in Health
The manholes in Jothiammal Nagar, Chennai, overflow and fill the streets with sewage. Garbage dumped by the residents is not cleared by the civic body. The area lacks even basic hygiene. Is this the way to live?
Something as simple as walking down the road is a challenge for the residents of Jothiammal Nagar, Chennai.
Stepping out of their homes implies stepping into sewage which has flooded the entire area. The two lanes of Jothiammal Nagar, each hardly seven feet wide, are filled with overflowing drain water and act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
‘Many of us have suffered from mosquito-related diseases like Elephantiasis and Malaria. Children fall sick frequently and a child died recently of some unknown illness,’ said Venkatamma, a 66 year-old-woman who works as a sweeper.
The nearest clinic is more than two kilometers away and it is not easy to get an appointment with the government doctor, rued the residents.
Untitled
Vignesh Radhakrishnan
In the slums of Chennai  India
In the slums of Chennai, India
Vignesh Radhakrishnan
The condition of a few huts is so dismal that the sewage has seeped inside and even food is cooked near the drain water. Despite repeated complaints and pleas to the Chennai Corporation, nothing concrete has been done to solve the problem.
The fact that the Councilor of Saidapet lives just two streets away doesn't ease their problem.
‘The sewage pipes here were laid more than two decades ago and now they leak. This problem is not specific only to the monsoon’, said Babu, a social worker, pointing to an adjacent sewage manhole which was bubbling out more drain water.
Residents said that corporation workers visit the site every week and clear out the drain water on the roads, but the water accumulates again in a couple of days. For every visit, the workers collect Rs. 10 per house.
Babu feels that this regular ‘collection’ by the Corporation may be one of the reasons why, despite numerous appeals by residents, a permanent solution has not been arrived at.
The sewer-water pumping station of Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) is quite near to the locality. Though sewage is pumped out regularly for a fee, nothing has been done to remove the silt getting accumulated in the pipes.
‘The situation was better when people used to dive-in and clean the sewer pipes. The machines used now do not remove all the silt,’ said Tirupal, a Corporation worker and member of Red Flag union.
Garbage is dumped by the residents in an empty plot in the area. About 75% of the working population here are garbage collectors and sweepers working for Chennai Corporation and for private garbage contractors.
Considering this, it is indeed ironic that the cleaners’ area itself is not clean. The members of the community take turns to clean up the garbage in the area.
‘Even after numerous petitions no action is taken by either the councilor or by the area engineer. As a final resort we are conducting a strike on November 19th’ said Masthan, a bank executive residing in the place.
‘We live in sewage, we consume sewage and we are treated as sewage,’ added Babu.
More about jothiammal nagar, Chennai, chennai corporation, Tenements, Slum
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