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Toxic foam covers one of India’s most famous beaches

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Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP

Children have been playing in ‘acrid’ white suds despite medical warnings

One-Minute Read The Week Staff
Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 3:24pm

A toxic white foam has covered one of India’s most famous beaches, creating a new hazard in a country rife with pollution.

Children have been playing and taking selfies in the clouds of white suds, while fishermen have been told not to go into the sea, according to the South China Morning Post.

See related 
Cleaning up India: will citizens be compensated for pollution?

The warnings have also not stopped tourists from playing on the beach, AFP reports.

The foam, which the BBC reports is “caused by pollutants in sewage mixing with sea water and frothed up by waves”, is knee deep and has engulfed Marina Beach in Chennai, the largest urban beach in India.

The foam is reported to give off an “acrid smell”, with doctors warning that “skin problems could be caused by the foam”.

Pravakar Mishra, a scientist at the National Centre for Coastal Research in Chennai, said: “It is definitely not good for people to go into the foam but they just do not understand the risks.”

Mishra told AFP that only 40% of Chennai’s waste water is treated, while the rest of the sewage from the city – which is home to more than 7 million people – washes directly into the sea.

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The South China Morning Post reports that experts say heavy rain in recent days has carried untreated sewage and phosphate to the sea. The newspaper adds that authorities are also on alert for a repeat of a 2017 incident when thousands of fish were killed by pollution that hit beaches around the same time of year.

Local fishermen have complained that the value of fish has plummeted, with locals concerned that fish are contaminated by the foam after the events of 2017.

Air pollution has been a long-standing issue in India, with the Supreme Court recently threatening that states with particularly bad pollution levels may be forced to pay citizens compensation.

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