Reports of rural pockets threatening to boycott elections as a mark of protest against authorities are not unheard of, but this may be a first for urban areas. Residents of Electronic City Phase-II in Bengaluru say that they have no other option but to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha polls to make authorities act on the issue of the stench emanating from a solid waste management plant located nearby.
When asked about the odour, a senior engineer working at the plant questioned the protests and told TNM, “Yes, the smell is there, but it is not harmful or causing nausea or vomiting.”
The Chikkanagamangala plant, run by BBMP, had started functioning in April 2018 in full capacity. The residents have been holding multiple protests since December 2018 against the issue and have approached the authorities multiple times but the stench has not stopped.
While a section of residents want the plant to be shut down as it was not part of the Master Plan of the city, some others have demanded that the standard operating procedure be followed for handling waste.
Resident activist Pranay Dubey said, “Now that it is summer, the situation has worsened and gone out of control. There is no way that we can keep our windows or door open. Earlier, the smell would waft in only late in the night or early in the morning, but now we get the smell almost throughout the day.”
In February, the residents had staged an indefinite protest outside the waste plant, prompting authorities to take note of the stench. The protests were withdrawn after an assurance that a meeting with the BBMP top brass will be held.
After the protests were launched again, a meeting was held on March 11 by the BBMP and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) over the issue.
Speaking to TNM, Randeep D, BBMP Special Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, said that residents should approach the KSPCB if they want the plant to shut down. He claimed there was no major issue with the procedures at the plant.
“We operate as per the permissions prescribed by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board under the Air and Water Act. We have a conditional clearance to run the plant till 2021. The Pollution Control Board has also come and inspected our premises and they have given certain suggestions. They have not found any major fault with regards to the standard operating procedure,” Randeep D told TNM.
“There are some suggestions that we will put in place and we will send a report on the action to be taken with clear timelines to the KSPCB within 15 days. We have a technical guidance team who will visit the plant and advise us based on which corrective action will be taken. If the residents have any issue with the plant, they should approach the KSPCB to address their grievances,” he added.
Residents, however, have stated that standard operating procedure is not followed. Nitin Hegde, another resident said, "Even the KSPCB report clearly states that the plant has stench and is infested with flies. It also states that the plant does not maintain log of input, process and output. With just one manager and four diploma holders, BBMP is running a plant taking in 300 tonnes of wet waste,This mismanagement of the plant by BBMP has made living impossible in the area here."
A senior engineer supervising the plant, who visits the site twice a week, told TNM that there are around 70 people working inside the plant and they have not suffered any side-effects due to the smell.
“We admit that there is a smell but it is not harmful or causing nausea or vomiting. There are 70 people working as staff inside the plant and are not near the smell. They have not suffered any effects of the smell, so what are these people on about? There is open dumping outside the plant and this is one of the reasons adding to the smell. We should control this and we all know it. Anyone who goes around this area will know,” Senior Engineer Arasaramrao told TNM.
Experts have previously told TNM that issues like these, including the one in HSR Layout Karnataka Compost Development Corporation plant, will continue as long as BBMP does not start ward-level waste management, as has been mandated by the Karnataka High Court.