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Junk, effluents choking ocean floor

By Swahilya

CHENNAI, NOV. 26. Chennai's citizens as well as visitors here appear to be taking the world's second largest beach for granted.

The adage `Out of sight, out of mind,' is apt when it comes to dumping garbage in the Bay of Bengal. It is there for anyone walking along the beach at dawn to see — paper and polythene bags, slippers and shoes — especially the day after the immersion of idols during Vinayaka Chaturthi.

In the words of V. Sundar, Professor and Head of the Department of Ocean Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, who saw a huge pile of rubber slippers collected around an abandoned sand pump trestle constructed by the Public Works Department at the mouth of the River Cooum, "At first it looked like the slippers were dumped there.

"But on reflection, it was evident that they had been washed ashore by the movement of longshore currents which deposited the waste at the mouth of the Cooum acting as a `sink' in this case," he said.

No comprehensive study

Scientists say that there has been no comprehensive study on the quantity of junk deposited on the ocean floor and the effluents let into it.

Nanditha Krishna, Honorary Director of the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, said the Bay of Bengal has for long been a dumping ground for sewage and raw chemical effluents. "We should not forget that all this affects marine life and gets back into the food chain. The quantity of effluents is so huge that it comes back through the underground aquifers into our water supply," she said.

According to a study conducted a decade ago by a team of scientists from the Institute of Ocean Management, Anna University, "The domestic and industrial wastes reach the coastal water through the rivers where they cause pollution. There are 58 drain outlets that dump raw sewage and sullage into the Adyar River."

It revealed that the Adyar river carried pollutants such as ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, heavy metals including cadmium, lead and zinc along with suspended solids.

Another study on the sediment deposition along the coastal ecosystems of Tamil Nadu by Anna University pointed out that, "The high magnitude of sedimentation observed in coastal ecosystems not only reflect the capacity of coastal regions as sinks for trace metals but also denote increased input of pollutants into the coastal environments."

Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Director, Ecoscience Research Foundation, said that if corrosive materials, and polythene and rubber items increase in the inter-tidal zones, the soil would not get enough air. This will result in the formation of a layer of dead tissue on the ocean floor surface between the sand and the polythene leading to a new form of sewage in the sea.

While raw garbage is dumped along the Ennore coastline by the Municipality, the Marina beach is subject to assault by the public and raw sewage enters the sea from many points.

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