Karnataka pollution board halts dumping of Bengaluru's garbage at Ramky landfill

Gives operators three months to clean up the area

By Anhad Hundal
Published: Saturday 14 July 2012

After almost a decade-long wait, the residents of 12 villages around the Mavallipura landfill site north of Bengaluru have finally got relief. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has ordered the city municipality, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), and private operator of the landfill, Ramky Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, to immediately halt receiving waste at the facility.

Invoking its powers under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, the board has also ordered the operator to find alternative sites for dumping the waste. It has also given Ramky Infrastructure three months time to ensure that the accumulated waste in the landfill is completely processed.

“Moving the plant to an area like Mandur would be environmentally, health-wise, as well as economically viable. Transportation charges, which stand at about Rs 400 crore, could be reduced immensely if the garbage was shifted to this place. Job opportunities would go up with the need for the segregation of various perishable and non-perishable wastes,” says A S Sadashivaiah, KSPCB chairperson.

The landfill, built in 2007, can sustain about 500 tonnes of waste. However, the BBMP has been sending almost 1,000 tonnes of garbage from Begaluru city every day. What is more shocking is that the facility has been running even when its licence had expired in December 2010.

What can be seen today are massive hillocks of unprocessed garbage in the landfill, putting the lives of the villagers who live next to it in danger. Highly toxic chemicals leach into the wells, streams and lakes without any treatment. In two months, three people have reportedly died of kidney failure, asthma and jaundice, and women, children and the elderly are repeatedly reporting sick. Morbidity levels of cows and sheep have also increased because of the contaminated water.

Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, a non-profit, points out that the landfill is within the Arkavathy river basin, a major drinking water source for Bengaluru and just five kilometres from the Yelahanka Air Force Base, host to the prestigious Aero India Show every year. As a result of its proximity to the landfill, aviation safety is seriously compromised because of the presence of hundreds of scavenging birds at the landfill. According to Saldanha, 11 of the 55 training aircraft at the Yelahanka Defence Training Base have been hit by birds in the past year alone. There have also been air accidents resulting in deaths of pilots at the base. The Bengaluru International Airport is less than 20 km from the landfill, and is currently expanding by adding a second runway. Not only would this intensify air traffic in this region, but also increase chances of accidents due to bird hits.

Despite repeated attempts by Down To Earth no one from Ramky Infrastructure was available for comments.

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