Garbage piles in city as two other landfills close operations due to public protests
Residents of Mavallipura and 12 other villages north of Bengaluru are demanding a CBI inquiry into the city's garbage contracting system. This follows the decision of the city corporation, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP), to restart dumping of waste in the lanfill at Mavallipura by overturning the decision of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB). The board had closed the landfill on July 11, this year because it was being operated in violation of environmental laws. The protests became more strident after a resident collapsed and died of shock last Thursday following an altercation with police personnel deployed to help the civic body force open the landfill.
The landfill at Mavallipura village in Shivakote panchayat near Yelahanka, about 15 km from Bengaluru, was operated by a private firm, Ramky, and BBMP. It had become a serious health hazard because the company was not processing the garbage as required, but simply piling it up in huge pits, around 40 metre deep and spread over a few hectares. The dump was receiving around 1,000 tonnes of garbage daily from the city since 2007 (a total of four million tonnes has been dumped at the site till date). At present, the unprocessed waste is piled high in the pits and resemble large hillocks, says Leo Saldanha of the non-profit Environment Support Group.
In its closure order, KSPCB had instructed Ramky to completely process the accumulated waste for composting within three months in a scientific manner, or face criminal action. However, Ramky and BBMP failed to comply with this order. What's more, BBMP did not take any action to work with communities to cut down waste generation, promote segregation at source and thus prevent the need for disposing of waste in landfills. Instead, the civic agency preferred to divert waste to other landfills, resulting in protests from villagers there as well. In the past week, villagers of Doddaballapur, 50 km from Bengaluru, resisted dumping of solid waste in the landfill operated by Terra Firma, citing health and environmental impacts.
Police force used; protester dies
On August 23, in an unprecedented move, BBMP deployed 600 policemen to force open the landfill. “When we saw the police deployment,” says M Ramesh, member, Gantiganahalli panchayat, “we asked for the reason, and were told that some VVIPs were coming to talk to the villagers. However, what actually arrived was a garbage truck.”
Villagers protested this move and prevented the truck from entering the landfill. However, in the mayhem that ensued, 36-year-old Srinivas, one of the protesters, collapsed of shock and died, said Ramesh.
Following this, on August 24, several hundred protesters from 12 villages in the vicinity of the landfill staged a protest at the Yelahanka General Hospital where the body of Srinivas had been taken, and declared that the body would not be cremated till BBMP pays compensation to the relatives of the deceased and a CBI probe is ordered into the garbage contracting system.
However, police personnel, without permission from Srinivas’s family, brought the body to his village and tried to cremate it. When people protested against this move, several agitation leaders, including Ramesh were arrested. The protesters did not give up, and finally at 5 PM, L Srinivas, deputy mayor of Bengaluru, arrived at the scene and promised a Rs 1 lakh compensation to the bereaved family. He also promised a meeting with the community leaders on the question of the landfill on August 29.
Meanwhile, garbage is piling up Bengaluru as two other major landfills around it were shut down due to public protest. The landfill at Doddaballapur was shut down a week ago while another at Manador was shut down last night by protesting villagers, said Saldanha.
'Mavallipura landfill closure order well reasoned'
The crisis appears to have at last shaken the administration into action. On Saturday, August 25, at a meeting, KSPCB chairperson A S Sadashivaiah convinced chief minister Jagadish Shettar that the Mavallipura closure order was a well reasoned one. A second meeting between the BBMP, activists and citizens has been scheduled tomorrow, August 29, to discuss implications of the closure on community, including compensation to those dead or sick, and decontamination of the area, said Saldanha.
At a joint statement issued in this connection, several city non-profits, including Environment Support Group, Solid Waste Management Round Table, SAAHAS and Dalit Sangharsha Samiti has said that villages around Bengaluru have been victimised for the city’s massive waste production to the tune of 5,000 tonnes per day (Mavallipura was receiving about 1,000 tonnes per day). Residents of villages around various landfills are suffering from a range of infectious and chronic diseases; toxins leaching from the waste is polluting their land, water and air.
The statement called for proper implementation of segregation at source, which will considerably reduce the load of waste. It also demanded criminal action against bulk waste generators, who generate 40 per cent of the city’s waste, if they fail to segregate. It called upon the BBMP to immediately make public its policy on Integrated Solid Waste Management and begin comprehensive implementation of measures therein.
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