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Thick smoke from a fire burning at the Chikkanagamangala plant and foul odour are just the beginning of the residents' problems.

Smoke from the fire at the solid waste management plant in Chikkanagamangala, Bengaluru seen from a distance
news Waste Management Sunday, April 04, 2021 - 10:42

A solid waste management plant in Chikkanagamangala, Bengaluru has been a source of trouble for residents in the locality for years. In the last week of March, their troubles were further aggravated when a fire broke out on March 28 outside the plant, which has continued unabated for the last few days. “We do not know the specific cause of the fire yet. But what had happened was that close to three to four days ago, there was a severe fire outside the plant and residents saw plumes of smoke coming from the plant,” said Deepu Chandran, a resident of the locality.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has taken cognisance of the incident. Yatish, Senior Environmental Officer of the KSPCB said, “We have received information about the accident from a complainant and have asked the BBMP to take care of it.” He further explained that the Regional Officer of the BBMP would prepare a report on the same, and that the civic body has been directed to rectify the issue based on the report. According to the BBMP, a pit outside the plant which contained legacy waste had earlier caught fire and was doused. However, another fire has started within the plant now.

The continuous fires have resulted in thick smoke surrounding the area, which enters houses as well and forces people to keep their windows shut at all times. The residents have taken to several platforms to express their frustration over the issue, which poses a serious health hazard. 

Deepu, expressing his vexation, said, “The fire in a waste plant is a severe issue. These kinds of things can cause considerable problems for us and if they cannot manage this plant, then they should shut it down.”

History of mismanagement

This is not the first time that the residents of Chikkanagamangala have alleged mismanagement of the waste management plant. Deepu noted that for years, people have been complaining about foul odour, water pollution and other issues.

The plant was started in 2015, and was run by a private company, and came under flak by the BBMP for not processing enough waste and following standard operating procedures. It was also accused of causing “unrest” among residents as a result of mismanagement of waste. The plant also burned down in 2016, and was closed for one-and-a-half years before starting operations again in 2018. The BBMP confirmed to TNM that it is running the waste management plant now.

The plant at Chikkanagamangala receives waste from about 44 wards in Bengaluru, and is not meant to process mixed waste. In this instance, the processed waste was allegedly dumped in an open space, which is suspected to have caught on fire. 

Effects of pollution on surroundings

Residents have been complaining for years about leaks in the plant that cause groundwater pollution. Although promises have been made to clean the area, Deepu alleges that no action has been taken.

Residents of the village complain that their cattle have died by drinking the water from the polluted lake nearby, and have written to the BBMP and KSPCB in this regard as well. Foul smell emanating from the plant affected even neighbouring areas like Electronic City and Doddanagamangala, they said, causing issues like lung problems and dizziness. Abhishek Kumar, a resident of an apartment building in the area, even said that they felt they were “living with poison”.

What BBMP is doing about the issue

Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management of the BBMP admitted that some smell does emanate from the plant, but not strong enough to call it an “odour”. He added that precautions such as masking the plant are being taken, and that the facility will likely be converted into a biomethanation soon.

He explained that incidents of fire could be caused due to dry weather and increased temperatures in summer. However, he acknowledged that the BBMP found unauthorised dumping of waste at the plant while carrying out inspection there. Though the illegal dumping had stopped for a while, he said that it may have resumed now.

Though the residents have protested several times and the KSPCB has also issued notices to the BBMP over the plant, no action has been taken. Threats of criminal action were also reportedly made. However, the menace caused by the solid waste management plant at Chikkanagamangala continues to persist.

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