There is an overwhelming stench of garbage in Hyderabad as one enters a 3km radius around the giant mound of waste at Jawaharnagar.
Adding to the pungent smell, garbage trucks emit a foul odour, as they drive in and out of the city’s main dumping yard.
For the past month, residents in areas like Saket, ECIL, Sainkpuri, and Nerdmet, situated more than 10km away, have been complaining of the stench from the dump yard. The odour, they say, enters their homes late in the night and early in the morning.
However, on ground zero, the situation is much worse.
Venkat Reddy is a retired serviceman, who runs a farm overlooking the dumpsite.
"My friend used to run the farm, and I took over around nine years ago, when this wasn't there," he says, pointing in the direction of the dump, where cranes and trucks can be seen in the distance.
But it’s not just the smell of garbage that residents like Venkat have to live with. The water near the dump has turned almost black. Even bore well water that was once clean, is now yellow and frothy, he says.
"I used to grow mango trees and lemon trees, but now have switched to other crops and plants to see which ones grow with this water," Venkat adds.
(Deformed Chilli plants at Venkat's farm)
A little further down the road, Madan (36) is worried about his cattle.
He notes, "The water is so bad, that even they know not to drink it. When I used to offer them the water, they would drink a bit, and then stop."
"Now, I take them a little further away to a small water body, where they drink water and eat the grass. They are giving less milk also now. It is a problem, but I am able to break even," he says resignedly.
Madan also claims that the water was giving him skin infections, following which he switched to booking water tankers for his daily need.
The Jawaharnagar dumping yard is managed by the RamkyEnviro, which comes under the Ramky Group, and has been allotted 340 acres as part of a 25-year contract, out of which roughly eight years have been completed.
(The entire hill seen in the background, has several thousand tons of garbage waiting to be disposed)
A company official at the site told The News Minute that the place receives roughly 4,000 tons of garbage from the city every day.
In Haridas Pally, Nagalakshmi, a shop owner says that hundreds of garbage trucks pass through the colony every day.
"They go during the day and at night, and this smell never goes away. It’s almost like we are living in garbage. There have been incidents where some trash slipped from the trucks and fell on students who were heading to college in the morning," she says.
In the next ten minutes, eight trucks were seen passing through the road, most of them strewing bits of trash on the road as they drove by.
Proximity to the dump site has nearly killed a nearby colony’s main source of tap water, as leachate, which is liquid discharged by the landfill pollutes the environment.
Deepak and Venkatanna, two youngsters living in Indiramma Colony, Chiryala, claim that residents have tried everything.
"We blocked the road, did multiple dharnas, got politicians to visit, still the media attention will be there for a little while and then go away. What's the use?" Deepak sighs.
(Deepak (left) and Venkatanna (right))
"In the past five years that I have lived here, I've seen the water go from slightly yellow, to almost the colour of oil. Now, we book water tankers for all water usage. The taps in our houses are useless," Venkatanna explains.
In fact, the water is so polluted, that a study conducted by Centre for Water Resources in 2012, had stated that the amount of Total Dissolved Salts in the water could cause kidney stones and heart diseases.
However, at the Ramky office, officials share a different perspective.
"We should all be thankful to the company for taking the waste and trying to deal with it. Instead of complaining, people should understand that we were allotted this land when it was at the outskirts, and even now, despite growing garbage, we are trying to manage it," says Praveen Kumar, an official at the complex, who makes it clear that he was speaking in his individual capacity, and not representing the company's stance.
Access to the dump yard is also strictly restricted.
(An image of the dumpyard from 2013. Credit: SOUL)
As the waste arrives every day, there are several men in the dump, who work to segregate the solids, which is then used to produce Refuse-derived fuel (RDF), which is supplied to cement factories.
Organic, decomposable waste, and plastic waste are also dealt with separately.
When asked about the smell, Praveen says that a proper landfill would solve the issue.
"Landfill is a costly process and is not as easy as it seems. However, it can solve two issues - the smell, and the leachate," he says.
However, there have been allegations that the 'landfill' at Jawahar Nagar is a dumping ground, which is covered with soil from time to time.
"The government should help us, and provide incentives instead of accusing us of polluting the environment. Either lay a pipeline from here to the Musi river, where there is a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), or build a new STP here," says Praveen.
"Also, if people segregate their waste at home, and we start loading garbage trucks separately marked as 'dry' and 'wet', then half our problems will be solved," he adds.
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