In February, hundreds formed a human chain, holding placards, demanding that the waste composting plant in Somasundarapalya in Bengaluru that had ruined their lives be shut down.
The members of the KHHSP Residents' Welfare Association were clearly frustrated that no political party had paid heed to their demands in the past three years. The residents wanted the Karnataka Composting Development Corporation (KCDC) composting plant that had polluted the air and water of the region to be closed permanently. The state government was accused of ignoring the issue, while the BJP MLA of Bommanahalli too recieved flak for not having done anything to amplify the demands of the residents.
But with the state set to go for polls soon, the composting plant is at the centre of promises being made by various political parties.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who was recently re-elected, has promised that the KCDC unit will be shut down if his party comes to power.
Hitting out at the current government, the MP said, “I have never seen Bengalureans suffering the way they have in the last five years under the Siddaramaiah’s government. This is not a cosmetic problem, this is a public health problem. It is a failure of the Siddaramaiah government.”
“Pollution from KCDC plant violates citizens' Right to Life and right to having clean neighbourhoods. I promise KCDC plant will be shut by a citizen centric BJP government.” he claimed.
Meanwhile, Kavitha Reddy, a Congress member who had missed out on the ticket claimed the promise was nothing but a “PR exercise” by the BJP MP. She had also publicly spoken in favour of closing down the KCDC unit earlier.
“We all know this is nothing but a poll gimmick. Mr Satish Reddy has been the MLA of the area. He has never raised the issue in Assembly. I had proposed that an all party delegation along with citizens can go meet the CM, but he did not pay heed. He actually does not want the unit to shut down as he and his relatives own the contracts. This issue is not new. Why did Rajeev Chandrasekhar not talk on the issue earlier before? The local Congress corporator was not called in the meeting, while the BJP MLA was called,” she said.
When asked why the Congress that was in power in both the state and civic body did not do anything, Kavitha said,“This problem is solely due to the BJP. The HC had ordered opening of the plant, not the government. We all know that it happened because of the BJP government."
As reported earlier, the KCDC unit was shut during the early 2000s and the BBMP had allowed apartments to come up in the area. However, since the time it reopened in 2014, it has become a headache for residents.
The stench coming out from the composting plant has impacted daily lives. "In the last couple of months, the groundwater has started becoming yellow in colour at times and we have no option other than to call tankers. Sometimes, the water is so bad that you cannot even use it for gardening,” Manoj Gupta, a resident had told TNM earlier.
This problem had forced the residents of surrounding areas to form a collective called KHHSP— and it includes RWAs of Kudlu, Hosapalya, HSR Layout, Somasundarapalya, Parangipalya (KHHSP), and Garden Layout.
Despite deliberations and various promises during the last three years, residents allege that nothing has changed. This inaction and apathy led the citizens to approach the Karnataka High Court.
A resident who didn't want to be named said that they had approach Rajeev Chandrasekhar earlier as they wanted his NGO-Namma Bengaluru Foundation to help them on the legal front. "In that respect, we have been successful. He assured that his foundation will help us legally. We were looking for some powerful lawyer, as our experience with pro-bono or less powerful lawyers has not been good," he said.
“Naturally with the elections around the corner he was trying to campaign for Satish Reddy (sitting BJP MLA) and made this promise," the resident said, adding that the MLA was never there to address the issue in the last five years.
Explaining the residents' position he said, "There were representatives from the Congress who then said a Congress MLA would have handled the matter better. As apolitical citizens we have tried to have a dialogue with every political party so far. We will take these promises with a pinch of salt.”