Fire in compost plant again: Bengaluru residents worry about potential disaster

A mountain of garbage at the state-run compost plant had caught fire last February too, taking fire tenders two hours to douse the flames.
Fire in compost plant again: Bengaluru residents worry about potential disaster
Fire in compost plant again: Bengaluru residents worry about potential disaster
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A fire outbreak inside the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation (KCDC) premises, at Somasundarapalya in Kudlu, has got residents in the neighbouring areas worried yet again.

On Tuesday evening, locals spotted a fire inside the KCDC compound. They say that initially local water tankers were brought in to douse the fire and it seemed that the flames were under control. However, the fire restarted and this time fire engines had to be called in.

A staff at the Fire and Emergency Control Room told TNM, “The first responder had set out at 5.12 pm and the fire was contained by 7 pm. As of now, the cause of the fire is unknown.”

This is not the first time that a fire has broken out in the KCDC plant. Just last February, a mountain of garbage at the state-run compost plant caught fire, taking fire tenders two hours to douse the flames.

Residents have time and again expressed concern over the huge quantities of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) – waste left over after wet waste is processed and which is highly inflammable – inside the plant saying that it is a disaster waiting to happen.

“Last year, there was a similar fire and so this year we had forewarned the authorities. They said they would take precautions but unfortunately there was a fire again,” Krishna Kumar, a resident of HSR Layout, said.

“If the mound of RDF catches fire, it can result in a major disaster. This just goes to show the irresponsible behaviour of the authorities. The plant has become more like a dumping ground than a processing unit,” he added.

The residents of Kudlu, Hosapalya, HSR Layout, Somasundarapalya, Parangipalya (KHHSP) and Garden Layout, as well as from adjoining areas have for over three years now protesting against the composting unit. They allege that the plant is polluting the environment as well as encroaching on the Somasundarapalya Lake, and demanded its closure.

In September 2017, a Joint Action Team (JAT), comprising residents as well as representatives of the government and contractors, was formed. Resident members of the group said that several promises were made to them when the group was set up. These include moving the RDF out of the plant to another facility that can further process it and bringing in a more disciplined system in place. However, dates kept getting postponed and none of the promises were kept, they said.

Further, they alleged that communication between them and the authorities came to a standstill after nearly a thousand residents took out an protest earlier this month demanding that the plant be shut down.

Kamesh Rastogi, a resident of Somasundarapalya who lives very close to the KCDC plant, criticised the authorities for inaction and for not caring for the lives of residents. He also said that all their attempts to reach out to authorities to understand the reason for Tuesday’s fire have been futile so far.

“Every forest fire begins from a small spark. There is 8,000 metric tonnes of RDF inside the compound… on top of that they have soil capped it, which is a clear crime. They don’t seem to understand the risk of what will happen if the mound of RDF catches fire,” he said.

Kamesh stated that the KCDC does not have round-the-clock supervisors to look after the plant and take decisions if something goes wrong.

“They are taking such a careless approach to such a serious issue. They are not treating us like human beings,” he said, adding that the residents were contemplating filing a complaint against the KCDC for the repeated fires.

Sarfaraz Khan, Joint BBMP Commissioner (Solid Waste Management), and VN Veerabhadraswamy, Managing Director, KCDC, could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.

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