For the residents of Solipur in Telangana, plumes of smoke and the unbearable stench of burning waste have become a sadly common occurrence. It has added to the hardships of the small village, located about five kilometers from Shadnagar, where people have struggled with unkempt roads and poor infrastructure for years. But now, a new blight has been added to their woes — a massive dumping yard just a kilometer away is wreaking havoc on residents’ health as well as their work in agriculture and animal rearing, they allege.
The Shadnagar municipality dump yard is located between Solipur and Chilkamarry villages. During TNM’s visit to Solipur, several residents alleged that they're facing skin and lung related ailments due to the heavy presence of polluted air in the region. The dumping yard emerged around 2014-2015, but in the last two-three years, nearly 40 to 50 acres of agricultural land around it has been left uncultivated or abandoned, residents say.
Smoke emanating from dump yard as the waste is set on fire
Lavanya Gaddam, a 30-year-old farmer from Solipur, lives with her family in a newly-constructed home just 200 metres away from the dumping yard. The waste at the dumping yard is burnt at regular intervals during the course of the day. “We are falling sick regularly. Beside this, our vegetable crops are getting ruined due to the polluted groundwater and poisonous smoke," she alleges.
And it’s not just the people of Solipur who are facing issues because of the dumping yard. The people of Chilkamarry village in Farooqnagar mandal have also complained of the immense air and groundwater pollution caused by the waste collected at the site. While Chilkamarry is a gram panchayat, Solipur — with a population of around 1,200 people — merged with Shadnagar municipality in 2014. At the time, there were promises of infrastructure development, including service roads, central lighting and an organised drainage system. But in return, they have been left with a village in disrepair and the foul smell of burning waste, they say.
Lavanya Gaddam, a farmer from Solipur
Lavanya explains that her father-in-law Janganna fell ill two years ago. In the last three to four years, the air pollution in the area has increased manifold, leaving Janganna unable to work in the fields or tend to his flock of sheep, his son Gaddam Shekar also said. Janganna has also suffered respiratory problems, including difficulty breathing and chest pain, the family claims.
Srikanth Goud, another young farmer from Solipur, said they stopped cultivation on their four acres of land due to the pollution from the dumping yard. According to him, impurities seeping into the groundwater have made it impossible to continue their work.
"The fertilisers and pesticides are not working on the crops. There is no growth of crops in these lands. Many farmers' livelihoods are being affected as they have to sell off their buffaloes and cows due to pollution," said Srikanth.
Farmer Srikanth Goud showing his abondoned crop
Some farmers even allege that their livestock have suffered dire consequences as a result of the dumping yard. Dairy farmer Kummari Yadaiah says he has lost at least eight out of 20 cows, as well as nine buffaloes due to fumes from the burning rubble and polluted drinking water.
Some even say it isn’t uncommon for them to see skin allergies from continuous exposure to the smoke. But even as the dumping yard and its effluents are causing concerns, the Telangana government has constructed 2BHK houses near the dumping yard, under the dignity housing scheme, to accommodate around 1,000 families in economically weaker sections. These homes have not yet been allotted and are empty.
Much of the waste is reportedly being generated by the town of Shadnagar, located on the national highway connecting Hyderabad and Bengaluru. With a population of 54,000, Shadnagar has seen significant infrastructural advancements, and is now home to a number of hospitals and commercial establishments. The regular solid waste generated by households, hotels, hospitals and markets is collected and transported to the dump yard by Shadnagar municipality.
According to official reports, 70% of the total waste comes from household sources, while the remaining is from commercial establishments. However, activists estimate that the waste collected from commercial entities is far higher than official estimates.
Livestock shelter near a farm in Solipur
Singapaga Jangaiah, an environmental activist and Rangareddy district president of Telangana Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (T-MRPS), said that officials have long ignored their demands to shift the dumping yard from their locality. “The dump yard has no security. No one knows what actually gets dumped here. When the yard is overfilled, they will set the waste on fire, which lasts for two months."
Jangaiah and other residents have alleged that they have seen biomedical waste and other hazardous substances, including expired drugs, being left at the yard, though officials say the site is only used for non-hazardous waste.
“We have given multiple representations to the municipal authorities and revenue authorities. They keep telling us they will move the yard in two or three months, but nothing changes,” he said.
Singapaga Jangaiah, environmental activist and T-MRPS leader
In 2017, the Shadnagar Municipality had proposed a plan for a solid waste management system, through which a new site would be procured along with a processing facility and sanitary landfill. The project was supposed to take three years to complete, but it has still not been implemented.
TNM reached out to Shadnagar Municipal Commissioner Jayanth Kumar to seek clarification on the matter as well as the allegations of health hazards from the dumping yard. "We have taken note of the issues raised by the residents and assured them that we will shift the dump yard within four months,” he said. He declined to comment further on the issue.
Main road in Solipur village, which is now 5th ward of Shadnagar municipality
When asked about resident allegations of hazardous waste being dumped at the site and the delay in shifting the yard, Jayanth Kumar refused to comment, saying that he had taken office recently and was not completely familiar with the situation.