Segregation of 'waste' at source is the only way forward
Bangalore : 23 August 2012
In recent weeks, a wholly needless crisis in managing garbage seems to have been created due to the systemic failure of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and other agencies. It is claimed that the action of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board forcing closure of the landfill operated by M/s Ramky at Mavallipura has provided no option to the city but to landfill wherever possible. By so stating, there are attempts to project the legally correct regulatory action of KSPCB as being against the public interest, when the fact is Ramky has been operating the landfill without any legal clearance and in criminal disregard of applicable standards, norms and laws.
It is well known that villages around Bangalore have become victim to the massive and largely illegal dumping of about 5,000 tonnes of solid waste generated daily in the city. For years now they have quietly endured the obnoxious impact of Bangalore's callousness. Several villagers have died as a direct consequence of such dumping of toxic waste, and many more are suffering a wide range of infectious and chronic illnesses. This abhorrent practice of dumping waste has destroyed village commons, farming land, grazing pastures, forests and water sources, and adversely impacted thousands of livelihoods. The pollutants released have contaminated lakes, wells, streams, the air, etc., and is finding its way back into Bangalore's population through food chains.
If villagers across Bangalore are justly standing up for their Fundamental Right to a Clean Environment, can BBMP force them to accept the waste under the threat of police action? The Mayor and Commissioner point to every street corner overflowing with garbage as an indication of a crisis. What is not being shared is that this is a direct consequence of BBMPs inaction over years. Waste is not being picked up for a week now and in a totally unwarranted reaction, waste piles are being set afire spreading highly carcinogenic toxic air in residential areas. All this is in total disregard of Supreme Court mandated guidelines on solid waste management. The decade old guidelines categorically direct cities to segregate waste at source, and approve of landfilling only upto 15% of the waste generated constituting of inerts (rejects). Clearly, therefore, landfilling all waste is illegal.
Taking opportunity of this systemic failure of BBMP, some entrepreneurs are aggressively promoting Waste to Energy (WTE) projects claiming this as a solution to address 'waste' problem once and for all. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Supreme court guidelines clearly lay down that WTE, like RDF or pyrolosis, can only be an option to process residual matter which can neither be composted or recycled (more as an exception). If WTE involves adopting bio-methanation or co-processing (burning waste in cement kilns) then the fundamental requirement for both these processes to work demands segregation at source. Since BBMP has comprehensively failed to promote segregation at source, it is wrong to promise residents that WTE will solve Bangalore's garbage problems.
What the city needs now is the willingness to immediately implement various short and long term measures, as quickly and opportunistically as BBMP is considering a hike in solid waste management cess. Bulk generators who contribute to 40% of the city waste must be made to start segregation and composting on site right away. If they fail to, criminal action must be initiated against them. The new Door to Door contract which makes handing over of segregated waste mandatory must be streamlined, made effective and free of all corrupt and inhuman practices. BBMP and Bangalore's residents must work together to humanely integrate waste-pickers in decentralised management of solid waste as an essential and sustainable prerequisite of such municipal services. BBMP must immediately make public its policy on Integrated Solid Waste Management and begin to comprehensively implement various measures outlined to deal with the garbage problem. Such approaches will ensure compliance with the Supreme Court Guidelines and provide a lasting approach to dealing with the garbage problem, which will only increase with population. These measures will also help us steer towards positive solutions and out of a crisis mentality that the BBMP seems to be chronically suffering from; a situation that is being taken advantage of by various vested interests.
The fact is that much of what Bangalore now produces as “waste” is rich in organic matter that can easily be composted at source to make manure to grow gardens. The methods are easy to adopt and there are several organisations who have provided innovative solutions for various situations: houses, apartments, in offices, schools, public institutions, factories, etc.
In simple terms, if we segregate what we think now as 'waste' at source, not only will it help in reducing waste and bring it to manageable levels, but more importantly it will throw up options for the 'waste' to be dealt with in a resourceful way. This will contribute to huge savings in the current practice of transporting 'waste' out (60% of Rs. 450 crores annually for solid waste management is the trucking cost alone), but would completely prevent the need to dump waste in massive landfills – legal and illegal. Such practices, in any case, are environmentally unfriendly, contribute to climate change, adversely affect public health and are wholly unjust: for they cause havoc to the lives and livelihoods of villages surrounding Bangalore whose communities have generated none of that. For a city that prides itself of being on the forefront of advancement in science and technology, it would be a shame to create a crisis out of garbage management.
Keeping all this in view, the undersigned organisations appeal to the authorities to convert what they now consider as a 'crisis' in garbage management, into what it truly is, an opportunity to transform Bangalore into a city that makes value out of 'waste'. Each of the undersigned organisations are voluntary and not-for-profit initiatives and work with public interest as their main and only focus. We are willing to assist the Mayor, Commissioner, Corporators, MLAs and all others involved in BBMP in making this transition progressive, environmentally intelligent, socially just and an economical prudent approach.
Nalini Shekar, Hasirudala, email@example.com Tel: 7829777737
Srinivas, Dalit Sangarsh Samithi (S), representing communities impacted by Ramky landfill at Mavallipura, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 9448174834
Mavallipura has woken wasteful Bangalore from its slumber
Mavallipura water super-contaminated reveals analysis by ESG
17 July 2012
It takes simple sensitivity on the part of every family and business in Bangalore to prevent people in villages surrounding from dying due to the waste that is now dumped on them. If everyone segregated waste at source ensuring recyclable plastics, bottles and metals were given to a local raddiwala (for a small gain, or free even, so they may not have to scavenge it out of dustbins) and composted organic matter at home (household refuse is mostly organic), 60% of the waste generated in Bangalore would not exist then.
Such actions are easily managed at every household and business levels, and can easily become a community initiative in apartments, streets, layouts, schools, public offices, banks, etc. The manure produced or composted organic waste can help create urban vegetable gardens and the money earned from trading recyclables can go to neighbourhood kids to get some sports kits or set up a local community library. Only non-recyclable and hazardous material needs to be disposed in appropriately designed and sited landfills. The area such disposal sites would be negligible, compared with what we are doing today; at least 14 legal and illegal landfills exist around Bangalore and highly putrid, infectious and increasingly toxic solid waste is dumped here and in hundreds of other locations including lakes, forests, raja kaluves, roadsides, grazing pastures, farming areas, etc.
Our municipalities are duty bound to ensure communities engage in segregating waste at source, an effort that does not take too much money or time at all, if done sincerely. Instead, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) invests almost all of the money allocated to solid waste management (which is part of the health component of the budget) in transporting waste and in creating massive toxic landfills 20-30 kms. out of the city. This is totally avoidable and the costs of trucking waste out is a whopping Rs. 450 crores every year; beneficiaries clearly are the contractors who own these trucks. This is tremendous waste of subsidised diesel, costs India's exchequer dearly and causes avoidable damage to the climate, in addition to the landfills, which are land intensive, hurting local environment and public health.
Mavallipura Communities have had enough of BBMP abandoning its civic duty:
Communities in Mavallipura and other villages north of Bangalore have been impacted by solid waste dumping in BBMP landfills for a decade now. Suffering from a variety of diseases, loss of livelihoods and associated social stigma, they are deeply worried about the long term consequences of the approximately 15 lakhs tonnes of waste dumped in their village commons: 48 acres landfill operated presently by Ramky in the village grazing pastures and the abutting 36 acres landfill forced shut in 2006 when villagers exposed that a local farmer Bailappa and BBMP were operating this on forest land. In addition, for several years now communities have raised concerns that the birds attracted by these landfills pose a serious danger to India's defense security as the Yelahanka Air Force Training base is merely 5 kms away. It has been recently confirmed that at least 11 aircrafts of the base have suffered bird hits in the past year alone. The question looming large is if we are waiting for the inevitable to happen, were such conditions allowed to continue?
Local communities have had enough of this and they are unwilling to risk any more damage to their health, livelihoods and their environment. In this context, the recent decision of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board to shut down the landfill operated by Ramky, on grounds that the company has totally violated all the clearance conditions and applicable legal norms (the facility has absolutely no environmental and health safeguards), is a welcome step, though delayed measure. The additional direction that all the waste now lying there should be processed, composted and the refuse translocated to Mandur landfill within in 3 months will be closely monitored by the local communities. This this action must be earnestly implemented and the environmental health of affected villages restored to the clean and livable state that it was before, is a long pending demand, and must be ensured.
Rather than take up this task sincerely, BBMP is now pushing into Mavallipura another toxic facility: a waste to energy project. When this project was cleared, it was done in total violation of the norms and rules contained in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2000, and also without any statutory consultation with local communities as required by law. People of Mavallipura and other villages will not tolerate any further abuse of their lives, livelihoods, their commons, their properties and their futures, if BBMP does not drop this project immediately. Quite simply, BBMP can invest the same money in forcing Bangalore's population to segregate waste at source and composting waste locally, then such landfills and incinerators would be unnecessary.
Mavallipura water super-contaminated:
Environment Support Group has been monitoring various surface and ground water sources in Mavallipura and downstream villages for several years now. Samples collected earlier this month were analysed at the laboratory of the Karnataka Dept. Of Mines and Geology, and the results are shocking.
All ten points monitored reveal shocking levels of pollution. Not only is any water source not potable in this entire area now, additionally these waters are extemely corrosive. It is no wonder that sheep and cattle forced to drink such waters are sickly and dying by the droves, and people are increasingly affected and dying due to various chronic and infectious diseases. A quick analysis of the water sampling is enclosed and is self-explanatory.
Keeping all these circumstances in view, communities of Mavallipura demand that the following actions follow:
1. That BBMP, Karnataka Government, KSPCB, Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Defense Ministry must take immediate action and shut down the Mavallipura landfill operated by Ramky immediately. The Waste to Energy project proposed her must also be cancelled.
2. That all the waste that is now accumulated in these landfills must be safely processed to recover their organic manure content, and the non-recyclable and toxic refuse taken to other appropriate landfills such as Mandur. This is essential as both Ramky and Bailappa's landfills have no environmental safeguards whatsoever (there are no linings to contain long term contamination of ground water from leachates that seep), and are contaminating several lakes and streams feed the Arkavathy River, a major drinking water source of Bangalore.
3. All families who have lost a member due to such pollution, or have people suffering from diseases, must be comprehensively taken care and compensated humanistically and lawfully. Free medical health camps must be organised regularly in all villages to ensure no family suffers any further.
4. Hundreds of cattle and sheep have been lost due to pollution or attacked by packs of vicious dogs that live in the landfills. Livestock owners must be suitably compensated and BBMP must ensure that veterinarians regularly visit the affected villages to remedy this situation.
5. All false cases filed against key leaders and activists of the local villages resisting the landfill must be immediately withdrawn.
6. Criminal action must be initiatied against all involved in contaminating water, soil, air and public health of Mavallipura and other villages. Decontamination of water and soil must be undertaken at the operators cost.
7. KSPCB must pursue the criminal cases filed against Bailappa to its logical conclusion. The agency must similarly initiate action against Ramky.
8. Safe and potable drinking water must be supplied to the affected villages, by building a branch line from the Cauvery Water pipeline servicing the airport.
9. BBMP must invest the necessary resources immediately in educating Bangalore's population to segregate waste at source, enforce household and community composting facilities and grossly minimise the need for landfills.
B. Srinivas, Member, Shivakote Panchayat
Cell: 9448174834 Email: email@example.com
Dalit Sangarsh Samithi (Samyojaka)
M. Ramesh, Member, Gantiganahalli Panchayat
Leo F. Saldanha
Coordinator, Environment Support Group
Address for contact:
Environment Support Group
1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road
Banashankari II Stage