It has been four years since the last truck carrying waste rolled into Laloor, which was turned into Thrissurâ€™s dumpyard. But on Sunday, as the local administration embarked on a project to farm on the cleared land, there was palpable anger among the residents. They had endured hardship because of the dumpyard for years, but had now been left out.
The Thrissur Corporation plans to utilise portions of the 5-acre land that took in all the unsegregated waste generated in the city until 2012, to farm. Keralaâ€™s Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar inaugurated the project on Sunday by planting saplings along with Mayor Ajitha Jayarajan.
While the Corporation appears to be trying to breathe in new life into the former dumpyard, Laloor residents have questions for the authorities.
â€śI read in the newspaper that the Corporation will now do farming in this land. I hear that they will grow vegetables here,â€ť 62-year-old Padmavathy says, as she walks home. To get to her house, she has to go around the dumpyard, along a narrow lane created by the 10-foot high wall that fences the former landfill.
44-year-old Jaya, who works as a domestic help, says that they were forced to stop using their wells many years ago, as water was tested to be not healthy for drinking.
â€śEven after they stopped dumping waste here, our lives are not back to normal. We still cannot use our wells. It is the worst during the monsoonsâ€¦ scores of worms form carpets outside our houses. All of them come from this land. Will this problem be solved if the Corporation begins farming there?â€ť Jaya asks.
KK Omana, executive member of the Malinya Nirmarjana Samara Samiti, too had reservations about residents being kept out of the loop. But her questions suggest that the Corporation does not seem to have thought things through in its haste to push for the project.
â€śWe weren't consulted before the Corporation went ahead with their plan to use the land. Where will they pump water from? The same contaminated wells in the neighbourhood? Is the land even fertile for the purpose?" asks Omana.
Mayor Ajitha said that the Corporation would use water from a well on the premises of the dump yard.
It took Laloorâ€™s residents 24 years to bring about the end of the dumping in their backyards.
â€śIt is shameful that it took us more than two decades to win a struggle for our right to life, and which was not motivated by any other politics. During the protest period, we would regularly block the trucks that carried the waste and get arrested for it. The police would send two buses to arrest the thousands of protestors. As the struggle got harder, many residents even withdrew from it,â€ť Omana says.
They began with demonstrations in front of the panchayat office in 1988, under the leadership of AV Aryan of the CPI(M). Soon, they took their protest to the Corporation and the Collectorate, and even organised hunger strikes.
Dozens of people had to be hospitalised in 2009, after a massive fire broke out and generated toxic fumes. But even without the fire, skin infections and diarrhoea had been a daily issue.
Legal battles followed with the Kerala High Court asking the Corporation to remove the garbage from the land. In 2012, the dumping unsegregated waste from hospitals, markets and households was completely stopped.
Now that the Corporation is set to convert the land for farming, Omana cannot help but wonder why officials kept residents out of the initiative.
Omana pointed out that the Corporation had not put in place security measures before commencing the project.
However, Mayor Ajitha says that all the gates to the ground would be repaired and entry into the area would not be unsupervised.
She added that farming is only one of the initiatives the Corporation is looking to implement.
"We are also contemplating setting up solar panels there. But nothing is final, we are still getting requests from cooperative societies, Kudumbashree units and residence welfare associations asking for permission to manage the farming," Ajitha says.
However, she had no answer for the corporation thought it unnecessary to hold discussions with the residents of Laloor.
(Edited by Anisha Seth)