On Friday evening, the residents of HSR Layout and Somasundarapalya in Bengaluru were greeted with a frightening sight. A fire broke out at a government-run waste processing plant in their neighbourhood a little after 6pm, and two fire tenders took 2 hours to douse the flames.
According to eyewitnesses, the blaze resulted after the refuse-derived-fuel mountain (a mound of processed garbage) in the compound of the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation's plant in HSR Layout caught fire.
Speaking to The News Minute, one resident, Anis Padela, said that only timely notice from residents helped handle the blaze in a timely fashion. "The fire was bad, and could have become worse if it happened in the night," she said.
Sankar Sharma, an IT professional who resides in Somasundarapalya said that a neighbour alerted him about the fire.
"When I got there with a few other residents, we saw that the RDF mountain at the back of the compound was on fire. We alerted the KCDC officials and the fire department, but the fact that the back gate was locked, caused some delay. The security guard stationed at the main gate did not have a key to the back gate and we had to break the lock to get the fire engines inside," Sankar said.
According to officials at the Sarjapur Fire Station, the fire was doused in two hours. The fire tender from Sarjapur was aided in the operation by another fire engine from Electronic City.
Even after the fire was put off, the smoke that emanated from the burnt area was a concern to the residents. While the residents maintain that it was the RDF mountain that was on fire, however, KCDC Chairman Kenchegowda claimed that only the dry grass in the compound had caught on fire.
"The fire was not in the plant itself, but only in the dry grass on the lakeside, where there is a BBMP nursery functioning. They keep dumping leaves and plants there, and such small fires are common during summer. The RDF mountain is located far from where the fire broke out," Kenchegowda claimed.
Asked why KCDC has not taken precautionary measures against such fires if such instances were "common", the chairman ignored the question. Instead, he said that since the fire had been doused already, the matter did not warrant further discussion.
However, local residents have refused to accept this version of the incident. For over three years now, the members of Kudlu, Haralukunte, Hosapalya, Somasundarapalya and Parangipalya (KHHSP) Residents Welfare Association have been up in arms against the composting plant. The residents have been demanding that the plant be closed down due to the pollution from it, and the health hazards it allegedly creates for local residents.
"We have been warning the officials of such crisis, but they did not pay heed to us. This can also turn into a bigger environmental disaster if not dealt with promptly," Sankar said.