The Marina beach in Chennai, the longest urban natural beach in India, has been in the news for the past couple of days for all the wrong reasons. The locals who flocked to the beach on Friday and Saturday witnessed multiple layers of foam-like substance along the coastline. The area near Srinivasapuram which is next to the Pattinapakkam was filled with pungent smell as the toxic foam floated in the air.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, a senior official of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board said, “Due to heavy rainfall in the past couple of days, the water flow in the Adyar river basin has increased. it has mixed with the stagnant sewage which contains a high level of phosphate (a chemical derivative of phosphoric acid). The excessive water along with untreated sewage has entered the sea and due to the severe turbulence, the coastline is engulfed in foam. We have collected the samples and analyzing them.”
“Incidents similar to this had happened in Mumbai during the last cyclone and it had happened near Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru too. Few pharma companies discharge the untreated sewage into the Cooum river which is one of the reasons behind this situation. We hope the substance will be subsidised in a day or two,” he added.
Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea due to heavy rainfall. On the other hand, local shop owners fear their business will be affected because of the toxic foam. “We receive good business only during the weekends. Because of this foam, many people enquire us about the quality of fishes. They are not sure whether they can buy from us as they think it will cause some disease to them, we are confused about this whole situation,” said Pon Kumaran, who runs a small food stall near the Marina beach. Without realising the hazardous effect of the foam, children in the locality were seen playing near the sea.
According to experts, the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is built for a particular amount of water. During the monsoon season, an excessive amount of water gets stored in the plant which will reduce its capacity. So partially treated or untreated sewage runoff into the river. The turbulence combined with the extra runoff water leads to frothing.
Environmentalist Pooja Kumar says this is not something new that has happened on the Chennai coast and it needs certain preventive measures. “We should ensure that our STP’s are designed in a way that can handle the excess water during the monsoon season. They need to identify and cut other untreated effluents entering the river. No action seems to have been taken by the TNPCB,” she said.
Kumar further said that marine life will be affected because of the froth formation. “In previous years tonnes of fishes died during the frothing time. And this happens a lot in urban sectors because of the large amount of untreated sewage. In other coastlines like Mahabalipuram or further south, you hardly see reports of sea frothing up,” she said.