On Tuesday, residents of at least 15 villages and members of the Banashankari Resident Welfare Association held a protest, calling for the shutdown of the Lingadheeranahalli Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) plant.
According to a report in The New Indian Express, three persons from the surrounding villages had died of diseases caused by air and water pollution. Residents of nearby areas also alleged that the plant had made nearby areas breeding grounds for respiratory and skin ailments.
Bangalore’s waste disposal and dumping problem has grown manifold in the last few years. The lakes of the city spew out the same poisonthat is let into them. Landfills are piling into mountains. The BBMP spends Rs 450 crore on garbage disposal annually — higher than its counterparts in other cities in south India — and the amount shows no signs of reducing.
However, while everyone is raising a hue and cry for waste disposal, no one wants a waste disposal plant near them.
Time and again, people from various parts of the city have protested against waste disposal plants and landfills. One of the most well-known cases was that of the Mandur landfill. Villagers in the area staged a protest after having tolerated the incessant dumping for a year. As a result, Karnataka Chief Minister announced prohibition of all dumping activity from December 1, 2014.
In November 2015, residents of HSR layout held a protest after the authorities did not pay heed to their request of having a waste disposal plant relocated. According to an NDTV report, they were demanding for their “right to breathe”. Next month, residents of Seegehalli and Kannahalli villages along Magadi road held a demonstration against a newly set up waste disposal plant. Reportedly, they blocked the BBMP’s inspection vehicle and raised slogans against the municipal body.
In Banashankari, Srinivas, a member of the resident welfare association, says, “These plants need to be put up where dry land is available, not near residential areas. The closest village is 30 metres away from the [Lingadheeranahalli] plant. You can’t even eat anything that comes from here because there are flies and mosquitoes all around. The stench is everywhere too.”
He adds that the existing plant has very outdated equipment, which is why disposal is not occurring properly and toxic water is released into Sompura Lake.
Ramprasad, a convener of Friends of Lakes explains that if the right technology is used, proximity of waste treatment plants is an issue that can be tackled.
“Look at the sewage treatment plant in Cubbon Park. It is in the heart of city but the areas around don’t face problems. It is also run by a private entity, which can resource the required technology,” he says.
He further says that the problematic approach of municipal agencies is visible in the terminology of “waste disposal” itself. “I think the phrase “waste disposal” itself is problematic. What does disposal mean? Dumping the garbage in a way that it is out of sight. That’s hardly a solution. The correct term is “waste processing” – processing waste in a way that it does not remain waste anymore but can be put to some use.”
Bengaluru produces 4000 tonnes of waste everyday across 198 wards in the city. Even for waste processing plants that are armed with the newest technology, the sheer volume of the waste poses a considerable challenge. However, with decentralization and privatization, the challenge can be met, says Ramprasad.
Anu Govind, a member of Whitefield Rising, who works with fellow volunteers for waste processing at a ward and household level says that much of the problem can also be taken care of if waste is properly segregated and then appropriately processed.
“60 percent is wet waste which can be composted at home. 30 percent is dry waste which can be recycled. The rest is sanitary waste which needs to be disposed off. But if we take care of most of it ourselves, it’s easy for us and means less dependency on the municipality,” she says.
She adds that if each ward is given a local disposal unit, it would not only make management easier but also reduce the requirement of acres of land that goes into setting up a large waste processing unit.
However, Ramprasad and Srinivas both maintain that there do exist considerable patches of dry land which, with motivated political will, can support larger waste treatment plants.
“The problem is that there is a huge ‘mafia’ around waste processing. The government, with real estate agents does not want to let these lands be used nor does it want to give up control over waste disposal as there is a lot of money involved,” argues Ramprasad.
Anu, meanwhile, says that taking care of our individual mess is quite simple. But it’s the mentality about waste disposal that needs to change.
“We need to get rid of the idea that waste processing is a “stinky business” and stop seeing it as someone else’s responsibility.”